In other parts of the world, though, as each news cycle seems to remind us, being a Christian can cost you your life or your basic relationships. I once read about a Syrian convert to Christianity who was ostracized by his Muslim family for being too “Western,” even suffering a murder attempt by an uncle, and by the Christians he met as being too “Muslim.” Even people in this country can give grave offense to their own families and religious traditions when they convert, or be ridiculed and minimized.
Following Jesus was dangerous for his immediate disciples. Terrorized by the occupying Romans and oppressed by the temple leadership, the average citizen of Jesus’ place and time did well to keep his head low, staying out of trouble. Leaving your livelihood and family to publicly identify with an itinerant teacher who drew a fair amount of attention, much of it suspicious – this was not a recipe for a quiet life. Those who affiliated with Jesus were risking their comfort, work, family relationships – and often their lives. Hence, in his pep talk to would-be disciples, after telling them how radically they need to reorder their priorities if they’re going to follow him, Jesus gives an example:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”
Maybe for us, relationship is a better analogy than architecture. What if we translated Jesus’ example: "Who of you, intending to commit to a relationship, does not first sit down and assess feelings, chemistry, compatibility, to see whether there’s enough to engage it? Otherwise, when you’ve told all your friends “This is the one!” and then you break up, all who see it will begin to ridicule you, saying, "They started hot, but sure flickered out in a hurry!"
Fact is, few people I know have a big conversion, start following Christ and keep going. Many of us come on strong, get distracted or disappointed, wander off, wander back, get complacent again, often for years or decades. And at some point we stop wandering away – we start to move closer, into knowing and being known. Our priorities of how we spend our time, money and love shift, open up. We keep choosing, coming closer. Maybe if we’d sat down and counted the cost, we wouldn’t have done it – but now, whatever cost there is, doesn’t seem like a cost at all. More like a gift.
What are the things that pull you away from God-life?
Can you offer those to God and ask the Spirit to help you re-order what counts?
Know that there is a cost, often a hidden one…. and that it is worth more than your life.