One of my themes over Lent are the words of Jesus about discipleship:
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? (Mark 8:34b–37, NRSV)
I think the application to Lent is fairly clear. Taking up the cross is about sacrifice, hardship and ultimately death. If we want to be Jesus’ disciples, we know what to expect.
If you want to read a good book about this subject, get hold of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Be warned, it’s not an easy book to read.
I have often wondered where I’d be now if I wasn’t a Christian. I have the intellectual ability to do pretty well any job I’d like. I could easily have been a lawyer or a doctor. I would certainly be quite rich. I’d have a very nice house, a very fast car, and I would take holidays in very exotic locations as often as possible.
However, following Jesus has led my to be a Salvation Army Officer. It’s a pretty strange deal. I can’t even moonlight as any of those things I really would like to have been. I’m looked after fairly well, but many of the nice things in life are simply out of our reach.
And there’s the problem. I am looked after fairly well. I have a good car to drive, a nice house in which to live, and I get more than enough mnoney to cover the basic necessities of life. It’s not a lot, but I can afford to go out once in a while and buy a DVD or a video game.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that it’s too easy for me to remain a disciple of Christ. There’s a barrier to leaving. If I decided I’d had enough of this caper and wanted to give it away, it would actually be a hard thing to do. It would have a big effect on my family–the way the Salvation Army works means it mightn’t be that easy for Trudy to continue in her role as an officer. We’d have to move out of the house and probably back to South Australia where our families are. We’d have to start paying rent. We’d have to find jobs. We’d have to buy a car. Our standard of living would probably decrease quite substantially.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! I am very grateful that I am able to enjoy the lifestyle I do. It just seems somehow wrong that it’s easier to be a disciple of Christ than not. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant!