The Untold Cost of Faith
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“Jesus, take the wheel”: a phrase that was popularized by Carrie Underwood’s song “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” It’s actually a super-risky invitation. What if Jesus drives us to somewhere we don’t want to go?
I think that’s a conundrum every Christian has found themselves in — at least once— on their faith journey.
It’s one thing to say “Jesus, take the wheel!” And another to let Jesus drive without being the annoying passenger-side driver. It’s one thing to pray, “Jesus, lead me” and a whole other thing to actually follow where Jesus leads us.
Being a disciple of Jesus is being a passenger and letting Jesus drive. Being a disciple of Jesus is not only asking Jesus to lead, but actually following Jesus where he leads.
Discipleship is much akin to that game most of us (if not all of us) have played as a child: follow the leader. Whoever the leader is, you do what they do or you’re out.
To oversimplify, for me discipleship is simply following Jesus with the ultimate goal of becoming just like Jesus. Jesus offers you the invitation to discipleship because Jesus has faith that you can become like him, too. And for me, the foundation of becoming like Jesus is love — sacrificial love.
After all, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a (person), He bids them come and die.”
Fun stuff. But not a catchy marketing slogan.
“Come and die.”
It’s something that’s ingrained in the DNA of Christianity. Even the “logo” of Christianity, the cross, is a symbol of death.
Many people — not just Jesus — were executed on the cross.
I know many of us love to bedazzle our crosses. But no matter how pretty you try to make it; no matter how much you try to sanitize it: the cross represents death.
A life and death choice
Now most of us never have to choose between physical life and death by following Christ (thank God). But we do have to choose to put to death our ego and our pride (which I’d argue that sometimes, it’s even more painful and harder than physical death).
Sacrificial love begins by de-centering ourselves from the universe. It’s wrestling with the question, “What’s best for the community?” and putting aside the question, “What’s best for me?”
It’s understanding what Yoda meant when he said, “The needs of many outweigh the needs of the few.” (Relax, beautiful nerds. I’m only teasing. I know it wasn’t Yoda who said that. It was… like Gandalf from the Harry Potter movies, right?)
That’s not an easy thing to do. Following Jesus may be simple, but it sure is not easy. Being a disciple of Christ is a costly venture because we give up the most precious thing we have for Jesus: ourselves.We follow Jesus so that we may see what Jesus sees; do what Jesus does; love the people Jesus loves.
Too often, seeing like Jesus reveals the humanity and the image of God in the people whom I preferred remain nameless. Doing what Jesus does pushes me to places, spaces, and people that either I’ve been conditioned to ignore or choose to ignore. Loving the people Jesus loves — Which may include some I’d selfishly prefer not to love.
But see, when we follow Jesus, we’ll quickly learn that it’s not about us.
It’s not about you. Nor is it ever about me. And that makes me a bit uncomfortable which highlights this truth: there’s not really a comfortable way to carry the cross.
Comfort seekers and cross bearers
We tend to be comfort seekers rather than cross bearers. That’s why following Jesus goes against our natural tendencies.
Like that Rich Young Ruler who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded with (and I paraphrase), “Sell all you got and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me.” Ultimately the man walked away because the cost was too much. The thing is, he only focused on what he’d lose and never gave consideration to what he would’ve gained.
I don’t think we’re too different from that young man. How often have we been swayed by the things we’d have to risk/lose/sacrifice rather than what we may gain by following Jesus? How many times have we made it about “me, myself, and I” and not about God?
Being a disciple starts with sacrificial love. Sacrificial love begins with humility and as someone told me, humility is not thinking less about yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.
Joseph Yoo is the author When the Saints Go Flying in. He is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.