Pastor Paul Cannon
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
- Matthew 10:38-39
If you ever come to church, and feel like things are just a bit too tame … I get you. Church is nice: the people are nice, the sermon is usually nice, the songs are nice. But there is a reason the saying goes, nice guys finish last. ‘Nice’ just isn’t all that exciting. Nice, doesn’t demand anything of you. Nice, doesn’t challenge you. Nice doesn’t bring you out of your comfort zone.
So if church is that way for you … you have my sincere apologies because that is NOT what the Gospel is. This week’s reading from Matthew reminds us just how radical, just how challenging, just how costly it is to follow Jesus.
On Sunday, we will hear Jesus tell his disciples, “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Confused yet? You should be! That wasn’t very nice at all!
Before you get too worked up about this particular verse, understand that this is not the Biblical prescription for violence. This is the same Jesus that tells Peter to put away his sword when he is arrested. In fact, it’s not a prescription at all - it’s a description. Jesus is describing to his disciples what following him might look like: man against father, daughter against mother, etc.
Following Jesus’ way of the cross will cause all kinds of conflict, because it will push you out of your comfort zone. It will challenge you. It will demand everything of you – even your own life. Following Jesus will put you face to face with people who don’t look like you, talk like you, or behave like you. It will make you uncomfortable. It will not be nice.
This ‘costly grace’ is best summed up in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote,
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Thanks be to God!