"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Real Cost of Christian Obedience



By Micky Wolf


The real cost of Christian obedience—serving God in Truth and Love—can have many ramifications. For the one choosing to be obedient, it will involve turning away, in some manner or form, from the things which satisfy the false, ego self in order to respond with the true, authentic self. Some people frown upon this kind of obedience, believing it to be demeaning, demoralizing, and unnecessarily sacrificial. Or, if it does have a place in Christian life, it is mostly reserved for only the most ‘saintly’ among us.


There are numerous reasons why we, who call ourselves Christians, can be hesitant to follow the Lord’s will rather than our own, however, when we do our best to make that choice it is important we consider Jesus’ exhortation to take the time “to count the cost”.

"Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, "This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish." (Luke 14:28-30)

Personal cost…                                                                                                                           

“Constructing a tower and calculating the cost” is a wonderful example of the need for prayerful preparation in saying ‘yes’ to God in any circumstance of obedience. If you live in a primarily non-Christian country, simply speaking words of the Gospels may mean imprisonment at the very least, being sentenced to death at the worst—a significant cost, any way you look at it.

While we may not need to consider the reality of those “costs” here, in the United States, it is becoming more and more obvious that writing or speaking about our Christian faith and values is carrying increased risk for putting us on the receiving end of the indignation and wrath of those who do not espouse the same beliefs.

All of which leads to a larger aspect of counting the cost—realizing there is usually a fair amount of risk involved. Any time we step out in obedience to love and serve, we may experience rejection or being misunderstood. In some circumstances, we may be relieved that simply be ignored is the best outcome. Persevering in faith and trusting that God will remain with us is the best antidote to preventing fear from keeping us from our obedience. 

While we may never be totally free of the discomfort that can accompany our choice to say ‘yes’, we can rest in the assurance we will become stronger and more confident over time as learn to rely on the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit within, rather than our own.

Cost beyond self…

The moment we begin to believe our choices affect only self is the moment we step into an illusion—a place of deception. Every single decision we make in any aspect of life will not only have a personal cost, but a corporate one as well. That might mean only one other person. But it could be several. Or a whole nation worth of people. It is pure folly to think, feel, and believe we can go through life making decisions of any sort without our actions bearing consequences and having implications for those around us. Why would obedience to God be any different?

For example: my choice of following God’s will in my life through writing means I spend large blocks of time in my study with a keyboard and a white screen. Personal cost? Many hours alone. Corporate cost? My beloved sometimes needs to search the darkest corners of the refrigerator for leftovers when he gets home from work because the table is bare of a fully prepared meal. Certainly, not life or death obedience in this instance, yet I would be remiss in not recognizing my choices impact someone other than myself.

A need for compassion…

As Christians, we know we are not to base our actions of obedience on what other people think. By the same token, it is helpful to remember that anytime we make a choice, there will be consequences. Period. Being as open, honest, and considerate as we can be, in any given moment, goes a long way toward ameliorating what may be unavoidable discomfort, pain, or suffering, for others or self.

As we choose to take action from a desire to be obedient to God, we need to be especially compassionate toward those who will be affected, through no choice of their own. As Christ has modeled for us, to be compassionate is to suffer with others.

Obedience always has a cost. For one Father and Son, that meant the blood of the Cross. You and I won’t likely be called to physical death in that sense, but we will most definitely have plenty of opportunity to taste the sweetness as well as the bitterness through the testing, trials, and tribulations that go with surrendering our will to that of the one true, good, and Holy God.  Thankfully, Resurrection Life is the rest of the story.

Do I prayerfully consider the personal cost in being obedient to God?

What does personal cost mean to me?

How do I feel, knowing there may be painful consequences for self/others?

How does compassion affect my desire to be obedient?

 

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