“The Cost of Being a Disciple of Jesus”
I want to start with something funny: A pastor and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly Gates waiting for them. “Come with me,” said St. Peter to the taxi driver. The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St. Peter to a mansion. It had anything you could imagine, from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool. “Wow, thank you,” said the taxi driver. Next, St. Peter led the Pastor to a rugged old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set. “Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,” said the Pastor. “Shouldn’t I be the one who gets the mansion? After all, I was a pastor, went to church every day, and preached God’s Word.” “Yes, that’s true. But during your sermons, people slept. When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.”
I am confident of getting all things in heaven like the taxi driver did because I know I make you all pray to understand my sermon without any trouble due to my accent. My American mom told me that when she had an international pastor in her congregation, they prayed for the Pastor and their ears to hear her sermon well. I trust you all pray for me while I preach instead of sleeping.
Today, I want to talk about “the Cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.” While I read today’s scripture, a curiosity comes to my mind. If we asked people who were going to join our church whether they wanted to pay a membership fee monthly or annually, how many people are going to join our church joyfully and willingly? I have heard some people have left the church because they misunderstood the responsibility of tithing or offering as Christians. Please understand that the Christian church never has any membership fee. Imagine, when you get treasures from a rummage sale, or when you taste your favorite pies at Pie & Ice Cream Social, you may provide an offering willingly and joyfully. Because you got unexpected or expected good stuff from a rummage sale, you feel happy and offer a free-will offering. Because you taste good pie at the Pie & Ice Cream Social, you want to provide a free will offering. We Christians appreciate God’s grace and forgiveness, which free us from sin, and we give free-will offerings to the church so that the church ministry works to help out more people who don’t know God and who need God’s grace and forgiveness. Think about God’s amazing grace saving you. You may offer free will offerings with gratitude so that your offerings may help more people, just like God saved you.
We are Christians. Simply we call people Christians who believe in Jesus Christ. I want you to know what it means to be a Christian. The word “Christian” was named after the early church Antioch. Barnabas and Paul (Saul) made people gather together and taught a significant number of people at the church. At that time, the disciples were called “Christians” first at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). That is, “Christian” doesn’t mean those who only believe in Jesus Christ, but also those who follow and live out Jesus Christ’s teachings and life. In other words, “Christians” are those who believe and are justified with hearts (Romans 10:10), furthermore, those who love one another in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35). Again, like the parable of the cucumber plants I talked about a few weeks ago, whoever attends church service, may be called Christian whether they give free will offerings to the church or whether they commit to church events, or whether they love one another in acts. However, with God’s help, we may bear the fruits of love as we love one another in acts, which means “being the disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Let us see today’s scripture. If we were disciples of Jesus Christ, what else would we need? Jesus talked about the cost of being his disciples in several ways: If you don’t hate your family members, you cannot be his disciples; if you don’t carry your own Cross, you cannot be his disciples. It doesn’t make sense. Well, let’s see the scripture in detail. After seeing Jesus’ miraculous work, large crowds traveled with Jesus. The people who would be disciples of Jesus, might expect not to have to work hard any longer, but get free food and watch miracles like enjoying the fun things in everyday life. What a wonderful life that would be! But, as Jesus saw the crowd, he said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). What’s wrong with Jesus? He always said, “love one another as I have loved you,” or “love others as you love yourself.” But then, “If you don’t hate father and mother, brother and sister, wife and children, cannot be his disciple.” We are curious if Jesus requested the people to hate their biological families and their lives. Does he call us to hate our loved family?
Please pay attention to the word “hate.” The word “hate,” in Hebrew’s idiom, refers to using “order of priority.” For example, Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and Leah was “hated” by Jacob (Genesis 29:30-31). Jacob didn’t hate Leah, but he loved Rachel more than Leah. Like this, Jesus is not calling his disciples to hate their families in terms of emotional response. Instead, he calls for undivided loyalty to himself above family loyalties. The next request for being his disciples is “to carry their own cross,” saying, “whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This word indicates that giving up self-interest and competing loyalties are central to discipleship. In other words, we can’t love others more than our children and grandchildren, and we can’t carry their cross of faith. As we are saved in the faith of Jesus Christ by God’s grace, the redemption goes by individual faith. With our faith, we cannot save our children and grandchildren, but we can encourage and pray for them to grow in faith. They should believe in Jesus to be saved. That’s why we should carry our own cross to be the disciples of Jesus.
Both requests for being his disciple indicate that you should be in a God-centered mind. In other words, you love one another in a God-centered mind. A God-centered mind is like going to the second mile. The Gospel Matthew talks about the second mile’s love: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, also go the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:41-42). The Christians’ responsibilities to love God and love their neighbors is, perhaps, to be forced to walk with lonely persons, live with those who don’t have enough food and shelter and be friends with those in need. However, like the second mile’s love, if we can go the extra mile, we have already become Jesus’s disciples.
A few weeks ago, a Rotarian shared at the Grantsburg Rotary weekly meeting about why Rotarians keep their membership, using the Rotary Club Magazine (Rotary August 2022). Even though Rotarians pay expensive membership fees, they choose to keep their membership because they find values in being a Rotarian, such as being welcomed, respected, and valued for who they are. Furthermore, they value friendship and fellowship, learning new things from guest speakers, and getting opportunities to be involved in the local community. It was interesting to compare it with the church (faith) community. I wonder how we can find value in being a Christian and encourage people to engage with the faith community. Remember, we have free membership in the church, because Jesus paid it off for us already. Therefore, Christian membership is valued itself because we got it through the payment of Jesus’ blood, his life on the Cross. It can’t be compared with the other memberships. Therefore, with gratitude, we would go to the second mile with those in need. That’s it. That’s cost for discipleship in Jesus. Thanks be to God. Amen!