25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:25-33 (ESV)
We live in a market-driven society, so it is not surprising that we feel the urge to “sell” Christianity in the marketplace of competing ideas and ways of life. The text, Luke 14:25-33, offers a challenge to a market-driven approach to Christian mission. The text begins with two discipleship sayings that require absolute allegiance to Jesus (14:25-27). Jesus’ first discipleship saying is framed in stark language: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (14:25). In this passage, Jesus calls people to a kind of discipleship that is not cheap, not easy, and not to be entered into without deep consideration of the consequences and costs. This passage speaks to the importance of loyalty and allegiance to Jesus over all other competing loyalties, including self-interest and families. Jesus is not calling his followers to hate their families instead, he calls for undivided loyalty to himself above family loyalties.
For some reason, Christians seem to think that the most effective way to present the gospel message and the call to Christian discipleship is to make the commitment sound as easy as we can. That is not the gospel invitation delivered by Jesus. But following Jesus involves a big-time commitment.
Jesus’ command to “Follow me” is both gift and demand. What’s unfortunate is that some churches and pastors water down the Gospel and give their members false hope that they can proclaim themselves Christians and not believe the Bible entirely. They preach messages that make people happy instead of preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. It is sad that the emerging culture is that of inclusion and comfortability. Moreover, Jesus is not interested in our inclusiveness and continued living in sin. Rather, He expects us to recognize our failures, own our mistakes, repent of our sins, and seek reconciliation with Him and others to prove our posture before Him in humble submission to His authority. He clearly says; ‘anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’. May God help us all to stand firm and carry our cross and follow our Lord Jesus Christ to the end. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrew 12:2)
The Most Rev Dr Justin Badi Arama
Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and
The Metropolitan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Juba