The Other Cost of Obedience

I have been trying to obey Christ since high school (trust me, some days are better than others). Therefore, I am familiar with the idea that following Jesus costs me something. Because I’ve been doing this for a while, I am okay with this principle. I don’t always like it, but I am not put off by it anymore. I understand that when I follow Jesus in a real life situation, (which is not what I’m naturally wired to do) I’m going to have to give up a more natural response to obey Him in that moment. The “thing” I give up is the cost to obey Him. For example, there is the guy who ran the red light and almost plowed into me. I wanted to display my anger to him, but obeying Jesus means I don’t use hand gestures and words that might be natural in that moment. To obey Jesus means I forfeit the satisfaction of displaying my anger in an ungodly way. It is a small, petty example; but the principle remains: If we are going to obey Christ, it is going to cost us some “thing” in the moment.

The cause and effect described above is familiar to any person who is trying to follow Christ. This is not a new principle. However, we rarely discuss the other cost that comes when we commit ourselves to obeying Christ.

Let’s consider Simon of Cyrene. Are you familiar with this fellow? We don’t know much about him, but we do know he was a dad and he was in Jerusalem the day Jesus was being executed. The Gospel writer Mark introduces us to Simon with these words:

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. (Mark 15:21)

We don’t know why he was in the city that day, but whatever his plans were they got changed. Not because he was doing anything wrong. Not because he changed his mind and wanted to do something else. His plans got changed because Jesus was being obedient. simon of cyreneHe was giving His life up in obedience to the will of the Father. And on that day, in that moment, Jesus’ obedience cost Simon. Simon was inconvenienced, separated from his agenda, and forced into an uncomfortable moment all because Jesus was being obedient. Not only did Simon not give permission for the moment, as far as we know, he did not even have a head’s up that it was coming. Simon’s memories of that day were forever forged and his life would not be the same.

We all understand the personal cost we endure when we choose to obey Jesus, but rarely do we pause to consider what it costs others around us. I remember when God was calling me to be the pastor of a church in California. At the time my family lived about 20 minutes away from my parents. That meant grandparents and grandkids could get together almost weekly…and they did. I was excited to obey God in the call and I was willing to pay the cost to follow. I recall sitting with my parents and sharing the news with them. Guess what the first words out of my dad’s mouth were? “You mean we are not going to get to see the boys grow up?” He did not say it with anger or disapproval. He said it with sorrow and loss. He was having a Simon of Cyrene moment. My obedience was costing him. I can’t apologize to my dad for that moment any more than Jesus could apologize to Simon. Obedience comes with a cost and sometimes the cost is paid by more than just the immediate follower.

What can we do with these moments? There is no way to undo them. However, two things can be done. First, when your obedience to God’s will costs someone else, greet their frustration and tears with gratitude, patience and understanding (especially if it is your spouse…they always pay a price when you follow God). Don’t minimize their pain by justifying that you are paying a greater cost (even if you are). That would be like Jesus looking at Simon and saying, “Put on your big boy pants and quit your groaning. I’m the one dying today.” Validate their discomfort and cry with them. Only use words when necessary.

Second, when the time is right, remind them of this truth. When we lose a comfort or a dream or close relationship because of obedience to Christ, we will gain it back with interest in this life and in the life to come. Jesus said it this way when talking to his disciples about the cost of obedience: “I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

When obeying Christ, there will always be trouble or sorrow or loss…some kind of cost. The cost will be paid by the follower and many times by those who are close to the follower. However, there is a promise of getting back what was lost in the act of obedience. Let that promise become your anchor when facing the storms of obedience.

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