In it, Jesus apparently tells us that unless we hate everything in our life, including life itself, we can’t be his disciple. He warns that following him is an enterprise where the cost should be counted before the commitment is made – just as a project is costed before it is started, to check it is financially viable, or the odds of success in military action are reckoned.
Good grief. What sort of a god, what sort of a human tells people to hate their family? A colleague commented after the main morning service that following Christ would be a damn sight easier if you did actually hate your family – I think he has a point. There would be far fewer clashes of loyalty, far fewer decisions of priorities. Some decisions are simple – Sunday services have to run. Some decisions are equally simple – there are always other Harvest Suppers, in other years, that won’t clash with birthdays.
Some Many decisions aren’t simple at all, but I’ll let you construct your own scenarios.
This business of reckoning the cost, too, before you start. I have had a number of conversations which contain the phrase “if I’d known then…” about ordination, both my own and that of others. I thought I understood the commitment and the impact, and so I continued. If I had known… I would still have continued, but there are things I might have done differently. If I had delayed by a couple more years, life would have been less complicated, and less stressful for my family.
The cost, for me, isn’t so much in the money, it’s in the energy. Don’t get me wrong, I worry far far more about money now than I did, but I knew the numbers and we did the calculations. The energy, on the other hand, is something I couldn’t predict or calculate. Being immersed in people’s lives, often for just a few hours or weeks, at their times of great joy, and immense sorrow, takes emotional energy. Being involved fleetingly in situations means that I often don’t know the outcomes, don’t get the full story, don’t get the (nasty phrase) ‘closure’. Being with people under pressure, when opening my mouth and inserting my foot would be disastrous, finding the right words, or using no words at all, takes energy. If all my energy goes into ministry, there is none left for my family and my friends, none left for me. Sorting out the energy allocation is taking me a while. Count the cost? I wouldn’t know where to start.
And yet, here I am. Here I am, blessed, privileged, called by name and ordained. Here I am, in my human frailty, with the things I’m great at, and the things I’m not. Here I am, with my energy, doing my best to be a disciple.
So actually, I don’t want to count the cost. Because there isn’t a cost-reward calculation to be done. How do you calculate the value of being who you are? How do you value the knowledge that you have helped someone, that you have prayed with a family who had no words, that you have helped someone see what God is doing? How do you value that feeling when you go to ‘help’ someone, and they give you so much more than you give them? I can’t put a value on it, and I won’t.
Here I am Lord. Send me.
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-33 (This is the New International Version)