Why did Jesus die? Part 7. Participation (The Cost)
Part 2: The Cost
If the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a path we are to follow, then it requires our involvement and that involvement is costly. Yes, it is a free gift of grace, but one that also demands everything from us — even ourselves. One of the metaphors used for the Christian life being ‘lived out’ is that of running a race. If you want to run in a marathon then you cannot do so without training and preparation. It literally ‘costs’ us in terms of our time and our effort. Jesus said,
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33)
Being a Christian is to get up and follow Jesus, and it may be, at times, a difficult road to take. Yes, God leads us by green pastures and by still waters, but also journeys with us and protects us through the shadow of the valley of death, his rod and staff comforting us, with the promise that this road leads to new life — life in all its fullness.
And what are these difficulties or ‘costs’? Well, there is of course the self-denial. It takes courage and a purposeful, conscious decision to say the words, “Jesus is my Lord and I will follow and trust in Him wherever He may lead.” It will mean laying down your own needs and wants, trusting that God knows them, but also trusting that God will work through and use you for His/Her purposes. Have you ever actually said these words out loud, “Lord, Jesus, I am your servant, use me as you will. I give you my money, my time, my talents, all I own and all I am, to you.” It will mean you own nothing, for everything will belong to the Lord. It will mean your time is no longer yours, but will belong to the Lord. It will mean where you live, the job you do, and your lifestyle will be no longer yours but belong to the Lord. You will no longer be your own Master or Mistress, and you will daily pray, “Lord, today, I trust in you.”
I wonder if this is the single biggest secret in Christianity, for this is the ‘narrow door’ of which Jesus speaks, and is a door into a whole new world of possibilities, that gives the power of God space to move in amazing ways, where there is freedom, where God’s priorities take place and you become part of, not just a local congregation that you attend, but God’s eternal church; God’s kingdom here on earth.
The second difficulty or ‘cost’ we may encounter are the oppositions we encounter in the world. The world is hostile to love, and especially hostile to the self-sacrificial love exhibited by Christ and His followers. Why? Because it is threatening, especially to the leaders and authorities who exert power and influence. If you make Jesus Christ Lord, then by definition you are saying that those leaders and authorities, and the things of this world, its priorities and life-choices, are NOT Lord. So do not be surprised if you encounter fierce opposition to your new way of life. Jesus said:
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-20)
For many Christians in the world, the persecution is physical and violent, but for those of us who live in relative safety, the persecution can be intellectual. I have been called illogical, irrational, the propagator of a myth, and delusional. Yes, it hurts, but I am still faithful to my Lord and my Master, Jesus Christ.
The persecution may also be ethical, where you make a stand against following the expectations or practices of those around you. The temptation is to cave and follow the crowd, but you are called to a different way, the way of Christ, the way of love. Only this week, a friend of mine was ridiculed by staff in a local shop for not using the single-use plastic bags they provide because he believes, as a follower of Christ, that God calls us to be stewards of creation as best we can. You may think this is a small example, but it is real and it hurts. And when these things happen, we are to react with love and kindness. Jesus did not say, when someone bullies you, take them out with a well-placed, roundhouse kick to the groin. No, he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44).
We are called not to passively accept aggression, nor are we to retaliate giving as good as we get, but to stand against those who persecute us by acting with love. Love wins, and we have the winning love of Christ as both our example and standing with us in the here and now. It is why, as mentioned in my last message, it is important that we do not face this world in our own strength, but in the strength that comes from God’s Spirit living in us. Jesus reminded his disciples that when they were to be handed over to authorities and persecuted,
“Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19b-20)
To become a Christian is to enter this way of life. It takes courage, and it will mean denying yourself, trusting in Jesus Christ, and it will be costly, but oh, it is worth it! It will be the most incredible and life-changing decision you will ever make.