Counting costs: reflections

how much - question in letterpress typeHabits of the Soul. Discipleship is thus an all-consuming vocation. It must be accepted with mature deliberation. Discipleship is not periodic volunteer work on one’s own terms and at one’s convenience. Yet what are the marks of discipleship?

Brian Stoffregen notes that in the book Power Surge, Mike Foss lists “six marks of discipleship for a changing church” which he expects members to practice. They are:

  • daily prayer
  • weekly worship
  • Bible reading and study
  • service in and beyond the congregation
  • spiritual friendships – inviting others to the faith and passing on the faith
  • giving time, talents, and resources

As Catholic we would include celebrating the Sacraments as part of weekly worship. That being said, what are your habits of the soul that open you to the wonder and mystery of God’s active presence in your lives, that keep you focused; that fix your attention on the things of God?

Reflection. From Culpepper [293-4]

Have you ever made a commitment to an organization or committee without first finding out all that would be expected of you? Have you ever gotten caught by purchasing something or joining a book club without first reading all the fine print? Jesus warned would-be followers about the cost of discipleship.

Some churches, preachers, and TV programs present the gospel as though they were selling a used car. They make it sound as easy as possible, as though no real commitment were required. Jesus’ call was far different. He was not looking for superficial commitment or a crowd of tagalongs. Instead, he required his followers to be totally committed if they were going to follow at all.

The language of cross bearing has been corrupted by overuse. Bearing a cross has nothing to do with chronic illness, painful physical conditions, or trying family relationships. It is instead what we do voluntarily as a consequence of our commitment to Jesus Christ. Cross bearing requires deliberate sacrifice and exposure to risk and ridicule in order to follow Jesus. This commitment is not just to a way of life, however. It is a commitment to a person. A disciple follows another person and learns a new way of life.

In a sense, no one can know whether he or she will be able to fulfill a commitment to discipleship. Jesus was not asking for a guarantee of complete fidelity in advance, however. If he had, no one would qualify to be a disciple. Through these parables, Jesus was simply calling for each person who would be a disciple to consider in advance what that commitment requires.

Cultural accommodation of the Christian faith has progressed steadily in recent years. As a result, many see no tension between the teachings of Jesus and the common aspirations of middle-class Americans. On the contrary, a complete change of priorities, values, and pursuits is required. Paul wrote that in Christ we become not just nice people but new creations (see 2 Cor 5:17). When Jesus turned and saw the crowd following him, he was not impressed by his own success. He was not interested in the casual, easy acceptance the crowd offered.

The cost of discipleship is paid in many different kinds of currency. For some persons a redirection of time and energy is required, for others a change in personal relationships, a change in vocation, or a commitment of financial resources; but for each person the call to discipleship is all consuming. A complete change in priorities is required of all would-be disciples. No part-time disciples are needed. No partial commitments are accepted.


Sources

  • Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) pp. 291-4
  • Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997) pp. 563-8
  • Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes” at crossmarks.com
  • Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. ©
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