This is a difficult passage to read in an age of consumerism. Too much of the modern church is focused on: finding a need and filling it, it’s all about me, I need to be fed, served, catered to, made to feel good.
Jesus missed the “how to market your church” seminar. His words are quite different:
o Hate your family
o Hate your life
o Carry a cross
o Count the cost
o Feel the press of my demands and respond.
Jesus does not call his followers to a cozy life of being served. Rather, he calls his followers to a difficult life of seeking to live out, in the power of the Spirit, the great commandment: love God, love your neighbor.
Jesus wanted the crowds that were following him to know that his way is not an easy way. It will involve sacrifice, a re-orientation of life, following a new path.
As Herod was working on major building projects in Israel, Jesus said, be sure to count the cost of following me. As the Roman empire continued to encroach upon Israel, Jesus said, consider my demands that have greater significance than Rome (NT Wright, Luke for Everyone).
The life of following Jesus is the best. But it is not easy. Jesus will not soft sell his gospel.
Last week, some people got upset with the, just published, doubt-filled words of Mother Teresa. They called her a hypocrite for not being as full of faith as she seemed to appear. I say, what an incredible saint. Here is a woman, a follower of Jesus, who worked in the most difficult of settings. She went to Calcutta, compelled by the love of Jesus. And she stayed! In the midst of disease and poverty and death. She stayed. In the midst of her own doubts and wonderings, she stayed.
Mother Teresa joins a host of saints, including people such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who count the cost, feel the press of Jesus’ demands on their lives, and stay, and work, and suffer and sacrifice. These are the ones who truly follow Jesus. These are the ones who follow Jesus for the sake of the world. These are the ones who bless the world in the name of the Lord.
And this is so different from the seeker-sensitive, meet my needs, charade that happens too often in many of our North American churches.