I have been giving a lot of thought lately concerning the gospel of Christ thanks to our conversation in our life group meetings about evangelism. As I prepared to write this article, various verses which speak of it came to mind. Paul would say it is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans1:16). The beauty of the gospel is seen further on as Paul says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15). So why then ask a question like, “Is it worth it?” Eternal life (1st John 5:13)! Forgiveness (Psalm 86:5)! A home prepared for us (John 14:2-3)! A resurrected body (1st Corinthians 15:51-52)! That is but a small portion of the benefits of being in Christ, which would seem to make the question I asked rather ridiculous…right? As I ponder these thoughts, something Jesus taught during His ministry came to mind. It is found in Luke 14:25-33.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also…
Similar words are spoken in Matthew 10:37-39, but that appears to be just to the twelve who came to be known as the apostles (Matthew 10:1-2, 37). This time though, Jesus is talking to a “great multitude” (Luke 14:25). As always, we must wrestle with this word hate. The word has two levels if you will. It is true that it can mean to literally hate something; that is, detest it. That notion would conflict with other teachings given by Jesus. This word can also mean to love less, esteem less. Why would Jesus ask for such a thing? One person writes, “He asks for nothing less than the heart, and that cannot be given by halves.” The cost of discipleship is not foreign to Jesus’s teaching. Just a few chapters before someone came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow Youi wherever You go” (Luke 9:57). Most know how this ended, with Jesus saying, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Not only does He exhort any possible disciple to prioritize Him over family, but also over themselves. There is a cross to bear as a disciple (Luke 14:27). One person said it this way, “If home and his cause came ever into collision, home and all belonging to it must gently be put aside, and everything must be sacrificed to the cause.” Is it worth it?
In the verses that follow, Jesus brings forth two examples in order to help makes His point: first there is the building of a tower and the other a king faced with war. Both seek to help the disciple to understand that there is a cost to giving oneself over to Christ. Is it worth it? Well, I guess it depends on what value you place on those things which were listed above: eternal life, forgiveness, an eternal home, a resurrected body (and there is so much more).
So why do I say this, for it seems to take the wind out of the sails so to speak concerning the gospel. Or does it? I have always been challenged by this next verse found in Hebrews 10:32, 34. We read, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with suffering…for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.” They had counted the cost and had determined, “It is worth it.”
In various countries, this teaching is every bit real. To choose Christ and abide in His ways would often result in facing adversity. Could it be that such problems are coming to visit us here in the United States? Maybe. Nonetheless, it is important to be exhorted by our Savior to prioritize Him in all of our life. Help me Lord to always put You first. In so doing, I will be better able to love those around me the way You want me to.