Three Costly Sacrifices of Discipleship
One of the most famous fables told by Edwin Friedman is “The Bridge.” It’s about a man who tried to find the path to success and the purpose of his life. After many years of aimless meandering in life, he finally found the meaning of life and the path to success.
Realizing life is short, he devoted his entire focus, time, and energy on the journey to fulfill his life purpose. One day as he was crossing a bridge, he saw a man of equal stature walking toward him from the other side of the bridge. As he came near, he noticed that he had a rope around his waist. When they met at the middle of the bridge the man gave him one end of the rope and asked him to hold it.
He took the rope without knowing what it means, but suddenly the man with the rope jumped down the bridge. He quickly pulled the rope to bring him back, but the weight of the other man was about the same as him, so he was not able to pull him up. He asked the man, “Why did you jump down? I can’t pull you up. You have to climb up and I will hold the rope up here.”
The guy replied, “If I fall, it’s your fault. You better secure the rope by tying the rope around your waist so that I won’t fall.” He did as the other guy said, and then shouted, “I have secured the rope around my waist. You can climb up now.” The other man said, “If I fall and die, it will be your fault.”
“But, you must climb up. I can’t hang in here for long. I am on a journey. I have my life goal to fulfill. I must continue before it is too late.” He pleaded him to climb up. But the other man replied, “Make sure your end of the rope is secure. If I die, it’s your fault.” The guy just stayed dangling there without doing anything.
“If you don’t climb up, I have no choice but release the rope,” the man warned. The other man repeated, “If I die, it’s your fault.” “I don’t want you to die. I am here to help you until you climb your way up. But, hurry up, if you don’t climb up, I have to let you go,” he shouted to him with a serious tone.
The other man refused to help himself and shouted back, “If I die, it’s your fault.” It went on for hours. The man couldn’t find any other help around. He knew if he didn’t continue on his journey, he would be late. So, he shouted for the last time, “I will give you three minutes. If you don’t start climbing up, I’ll have to let you go.”
Three minutes went by, but the other guy didn’t take any action. The man untied the rope from his waist and released it. Then, he continued his journey without looking back.
[The end of the story.]
How do you understand this story? Do you think this man is cruel to let go of the other man? Do you think it’s against the principle of “loving your neighbor as yourself”? How do you understand the allegory?
The fact is, we all encounter people in life just like the man with the rope. The rope represents an emotional rope. They will give you the rope and get you emotionally tangled with them. They keep you stuck on your journey and blame you if you try to stop engaging them in the emotional entanglement. How many people in your life have given you a rope like this to hold?
There are people like this that don’t have anything better to do but to get you stuck with them. They are people without a purpose. You think you are being kind to help them out and help them recover, but they know exactly how to abuse your kindness to keep you stuck. If you have the consciousness to see there is a choice—to let go of the rope, or to get stuck and never get the chance to fulfill your divine calling.
Jesus had a similar situation in the scripture lesson that we read today in Luke 9:51-62, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” (vv. 51-53).
Notice that it repeatedly mentions “his face” and that “his face was set toward Jerusalem.” Jesus had a goal and a divine purpose to fulfill. “His face” is set toward that goal. Metaphorically it means his mind is focused on fulfilling his divine calling, and everything else become less important. The Samaritans gave him an emotional rope, implying that if you want to stay at our village, you must do what we tell you to do, not what God tells you to do. One way or another they are trying to get emotionally tangled with Jesus.
Jesus didn’t take the rope, but the disciples did. “When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.” (vv. 54-56).
Does this passage remind you of what happen this past week, where one of our drones was shot down by Iran and some of our leaders wanted to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? It’s a good thing that our President decided not to engage in such emotional entanglement with Iran. Otherwise, the result could be another several decades of warfare.
At personal level, how many times have you react to those who gave you a rope and got you entangled? Jesus rebuke the disciples for doing that and just continue on his journey because he has a bigger fish to fry.
If you want to please God and cultivate a fruitful life, you have to drop the ropes the aimless people give you, or you will get stuck on the way. People without divine calling are miserable and misery loves company. It’s one thing to be kind to them but it’s another thing to get yourself stuck.
The cost of following Christ is that you might end up displeasing people on your journey to fulfill God’s will. What it says here is that, if you are a people-pleaser, you ware not worthy of following Christ.
Then Jesus talked about three costly sacrifices of discipleship.
Sacrifice My Stability
Sacrifice My Stability
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’” (vv. 57-58).
The entire passage shows that Jesus is always on the move. If one village rejected him, he moved on to the next village. He didn’t waste time. If you want stability and comfort, you might not find it fun to follow him. He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Even animals have a place for security and stability, even birds have nests to rest, but Jesus lives a life of homelessness. Can you handle it?
Many people don’t like change, but they want to hold onto the old traditions because they give them stability. That’s a huge contrast with the life of Jesus, who sacrificed stability for fulfilling his divine purpose. He had a stable home up in heaven. He didn’t have to come down, but he did. To be his follower, he ask you to sacrifice stability.
Sacrifice My Family
Sacrifice My Family
“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” (vv. 59-60).
This teaching is particularly hard for the Chinese because filial piety is one of the most important part of the culture. It’s the son’s responsibility to bury his father. It’s unthinkable for Jesus to say these harsh words, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus never minced words, yet some Christians today want only touchy-feely fuzzy-wuzzy langue. The truth is a kind word of lie can be more damaging than a harsh word of truth, especially for those who need some tough love to wake up.
However, this is not the first time Jesus requires the sacrifice of family priorities in order to following him. He said it in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:37).
Yes, these are costly sacrifices—stability, and family. What’s next?
Sacrifice My Memory
Sacrifice My Memory
“Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (vv. 61-62).
Even though saying farewell to those at home before following Jesus sounds like a reasonable request, there is some implication that can only be understood by Jesus’ response. Based on Jesus response, he expects the sacrifice of the good old days—the fond memories. When the hand is on the plow, you are forming a new memory—the precious and exciting memory of following Christ.
Looking backward is to cling to the past. A church consultant once said, “The most fatal word in a church is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” Holding on to tradition is a form of idolatry.
I’m sure you remember the story of Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. It’s hard to sacrifice one’s fond memory.
Paul said, “Beloved … this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:13–14).
In summary, stability, family, and memory are all important for us to treasure as long as they don’t become your idols. How do they become your idols? When they become more important than fulfilling your divine calling, which is “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (v. 60b).
So, let us think about the cost of discipleship. The costly sacrifice of stability, family, and memory.
Until we meet again, keep cultivating a fruitful life because faith without fruit is futile.