Yesterday, I told you about twelve guys who were obviously 'up for whatever' (to steal a line from a popular beer commercial). But the sad truth is that I'm not sure how many people there are left in this world like that. Not when it comes to the important things like following Jesus.
What I fear is that there are more of us like the rich young ruler and like the son of the deceased man. The rich young ruler, you'll remember, came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him that he must sell all he has and give the money to the poor, and the man walked away sad, 'for he had much.' He walked away doing the math, thinking about what it would cost him to do what Jesus had asked. The son of the deceased man was called by Jesus to come, follow Him and he responded, sure. Just let me bury my father first. Jesus rebuked him for this and left the man calculating which meant more to him - the invitation to follow Christ or the last opportunity he would have to honor his father (which is a set up for the new covenant vs. the old law if you want to look at it that way).
And the truth is that most of us are very, very good at this sort of thing. Before we commit to anything, before we are willing to go one way or another, before we are even willing to do what God has clearly asked us to do, we have to count the cost. And we are skilled at this sort of actuating.
It's not just with God; it's our lives in general. Our lives are incredibly calculated. We know the risk and reward for every little thing we are about to do. We know how those whose opinions matter are going to respond to our words or our deeds. We know that when we say yes to one thing exactly what we are saying no to. We know when we say no to something who that's going to hurt, who is going to be upset with us, how upset those persons are going to be, and what it's going to take to get the whole situation to blow over. (And isn't it funny how we always calculate our yeses in terms of the noes it will cost but we fail so often to consider the yeses that our noes will open up? We don't think in those ways. Opportunity is not a cost, so it takes a special kind of person to know how to count it.)
It's this latter principle that makes it so hard to live a Christian life, I think. We are very busy figuring out what our 'yes' to Jesus is going to cost in terms of the 'no'es we will have to say to the world. If I say yes to Jesus, I have to say no to some cultural conventions. I have to say no to fitting in sometimes. I have to say no to some of the things I used to consider fun. I spend all my time calculating how much I miss out on when I say yes to Jesus, the price I'm going to pay for such a choice.
What happens when we start to do this is that Jesus becomes just another one of the relationships we have to manage. If we know how our mother or our brother or our best friend is going to respond when we tell them 'no,' if we have counted the cost to relationship of turning them away, if we have figured out what it's going to take to get back in their good graces, we have done the same with Jesus. We have thought about what it means to disappoint Him, to fall into sin, to choose this world over Him. We have counted the cost of relationship and have considered what it's going to take to get back into His good graces. We live our lives no in an unqualified yes, but in a calculated no.
Though we would never tell ourselves as much. We would never admit that we're saying no to Jesus; we would never be so bold. We're more likely to pretend we didn't hear Him calling, 'C'mon! Follow me!' We're more likely to keep our head down and keep walking until we have finished whatever it is we're up to, until we have stored up our treasures and buried our dead. Then we come circling back around and sheepishly say, 'I'm sorry. Did You...did You say something earlier?'
He did, but that was earlier. And our calculated no, regardless of how we want to spin it, is still a no. Grace tells us it'll be okay. Grace tells us there's a way back in. That's why it's easy not to worry so much about it. We think we know what our no is going to cost us. We think we know the way back in. But if we're really counting costs, we're missing something. We're missing something big. And for all our calculating, most of us have yet to figure out what that is.
We think we know what we're playing with, but we have no idea what we're missing.