The high cost of Christian service


By Rev. Al. Williams
Special to the Outlook

Four words – the cost of discipleship – continue to echo fiercely in the hearts and minds of those who take seriously the task of following Jesus. These four words – the cost of discipleship – are weighty, they are heavy and for the Christian they are finally unavoidable and terrifying.

The terror of these words – the cost of discipleship – is rooted in the simple yet broad implication that Christian discipleship, as it is properly understood, leaves no room for opting out of or being exempt from the demands of following Jesus. These demands of selflessness, sacrifice and suffering became all too familiar to a German theologian and pastor of the 20th century who decided that his heritage would not be used to compromise his holiness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words on the costly nature of discipleship were explosive when initially published in 1937 because they confronted the horrors of racism, abuse, and injustice which characterized Nazi Germany at the time. His words exposed not merely what Adolph Hitler’s evil ascension to power meant but what it meant to be called into relationship with a God that permits evil and demands faithfulness in the midst of suffering!

Bonhoeffer fulfilled his destiny of confronting the evils of the society in his day and challenging the church to take a serious look at how costly grace is despite many who often attempt to cheapen it. He made it clear with the life he chose and with the life he gave eight years after his words about the cost of discipleship were published that if you are going to follow Jesus it’s going to cost you!

It is mentioned in Luke’s gospel that those of us who are serious about living the faith we profess must first count the cost (or look at, consider and be fully aware of) the cost of following in the footsteps of Jesus. This is the case because to follow Him is to participate in suffering, it involves the experience of frustration, it means we will encounter disappointment and even signals that we are subject to the devastating nature of living in a world plagued by sin. Yet the good news is that the experience of hardship does not prevent the hand of God from moving in our lives! God can and will move powerfully on behalf of those who remain faithful to Him!