Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The cost of discipleship

The cost of discipleship. Yes, the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s never been easy in any time or place. It’s precisely when my life in Christ seems easy that I become uneasy—am I not only a failed human, but a failed, and rejected, disciple as well? For though Jesus says, ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28), He still does not accept volunteers as disciples. He accepts only those whom He personally calls. This can be frightening to contemplate.

How do I know I am called? Doesn’t He say, ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14)? Yet, what does the holy apostle say, but ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:13)? Yes, ‘will be’ but not yet, for the same apostle also says, ‘our salvation is not in sight,’ and ‘we are not saved yet—it is something we must wait for with patience’ (Romans 8:24, 25).

Is part of the cost of discipleship not only the pain and suffering inflicted on us by the world that hates us just as it hates Him (cf. John 15:18), which we must bear in silence and humiliation as He did, ‘like a lamb to the slaughter… and as a sheep silent before the shearers, not opening his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7), but also, the accusing doubts that afflict our very hearts and minds from within? 

Is this why we are warned ‘to do as the LORD your God has commanded… not turning aside to the right hand or to the left’ (Deuteronomy 5:32), not even to enter our own door, because ‘a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’
(Matthew 10:36)?

No, the cost of discipleship is not now or ever, easy.
What the Master says of Himself is true for His disciples, since ‘a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him’ (John 13:16): ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20). This ‘no place’ may be literal for some, but for all it is more than literal.

The cost of discipleship, the bitterest and yet the sweetest, is to have no home in this world at all—not in its thoughts, its loves, its hopes—to be suspended in tension between heaven and earth—heaven not yet ready to open and receive us, earth making no room for us because we are pregnant and about to give birth.

Give birth to what or to whom? That is its greatest fear. As holy and divine scripture says, ‘When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt Your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt, carrying Your unambiguous command like a sharp sword, He stood, and filled the universe with death; He touched the sky, yet trod the earth’ (Wisdom 18:14-16).

So the world as inn-keeper slams the door in the face of Joseph in Bethlehem, ‘No room!’ because it’s terrified of an unborn child (cf. Luke 2:7). So the world as would-be king sends soldiers to dash hoards of infants against the rocks because it senses its slayer nigh (cf. Matthew 2:16). Death cannot cohabit the universe with life, so life becomes death so that the dead may live. The cost of discipleship is a price too high for anyone to pay, but that price, the Blood of a Lamb without stain, was prepaid before time even began or place became (cf. Revelation 13:8).

No, the cost of discipleship is not now or ever, easy.
Yet now, and always, we are, you are, I am, carried in arms that too support the heavens, even while nailed to the Tree. And we still hear that voice that says to everyone who has nothing left to lose and is unafraid to ask, ‘I tell you truly, this day you will be with Me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43).

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