How do I feel about Jesus' words in Luke 14:25-33 -- "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters -- yes, even one's own self! -- can't be my disciple."
My head knows that this is the proper order, so I don't hear this as a threat any longer. There is even a sense of freedom in letting go of all these claims on me, and letting go of my own need to control things, to be part of Jesus' bigger picture. Yet my heart has trouble. Especially with letting go of myself. I'd like to connect with Jesus while retaining my relationships and prerogatives. Later in the passage Jesus talks about not being ruled by our possessions. I like that theory, too. But I also like my Powerbook, and the newly re-painted and furnished home office I'm typing in, and...
Of course, Jesus is not saying to absolutely cut off relationships or wholesale sell off my net worth in order to be a disciple. But he is saying to me that I need to be more tightly attached to him than I am to my family, my self and my stuff. I need to be more generous and less selfish. I need to be willing to work in the interests of others even when theirs conflict with mine; as Luther would say, to be Christ to my neighbor. When God invites me to the banquet (see v. 15-24) I need to not be too busy and preoccupied with things that don't matter. When God asks me to let go of what is in the way, I need to do it. That's scary, yet strangely freeing the more I struggle with it.
What about the examples of figuring the cost? Do you lead with your head or your heart?
I'm a dreamer at times, and I often prefer to follow my heart rather than my head. This relates to me because I can, at times, get so excited about an idea or new project that I don't plan it well enought to really succeed. This is a great reminder that good soil is prepared and ready to nurture growth in its natural time. Flourishes of energy produce excitement but don't necessarily have lasting fruit.
In the example of the king preparing for battle, I hear a word of wisdom for the Church. It is not that we should capitulate to the Enemy. No, it is that we should be realistic and strategic about the situation we are engaging. In the culture we find ourselves in, that means hearing those who are outside our church bubbles -- the poor and marginalized in society, yes, and those who have not rejected God but what they have seen of Christians. (Read this blunt critique, if you don't know what I mean. ht: Dave Wainscott) I think it also means being willing to let go of our cherished church possessions when they get in the way of the Gospel. Not throw them away for the sake of the throwing, but in the sense that we have to let ourselves take a back seat sometimes to truly be disciples.