When my cousin joined the army some years ago, he was given certain provision, including physical needs being met, a salary, and benefits. He was also given training, both basic and then later specific to his field, to equip him for his tasks. Never when he signed up, however – or any time after that – was he given assurance that he would not see combat. And he most certainly was not guaranteed by the United States Army that his service might not cost him his life.
“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” We read these words of Jesus in John 12:25 and I wonder if we really grasp their significance. Are we really okay with the fact that discipleship in Jesus Christ means hating our lives – that is, despising the comforts, the selfish ambitions, the dreams of ease that the rest of the world sets as their highest fantasy and end goal? Are we really willing to give it all up for Him?
Do we realize that if we are in Christ, we have already died (Colossians 3:3)? Or was that not what we had in mind when we decided to call ourselves Christians?
Our military men and women are sworn to move at the orders of their commanding officer, regardless of the peril. They often are required to leave their spouses and children and other loved ones halfway around the world and go deep into enemy territory, acting on the decision of others. They do not have a say in where they are sent or what risk they must take. Their personal feelings about the wisdom or ethics of any given battle are considered irrelevant.
I am being gently and steadily convicted of late that discipleship in Christ costs everything. Its rewards are unequaled. But the cost may well mean imprisonment and even death. And if I’m not okay with that, what business do I have bearing the name of the perfect King who submitted himself to heinous mockery and cruel death for my sake?
Whatever we love most is subject to the cost. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39 NKJV). Have we counted that cost – what it means, or might mean, practically speaking?
How formidable an army would the glorious Christ have if His followers took His words as seriously as the earthly military servicemen who follow their imperfect, human commanders? What a force would He have in even one yielded life?