Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Price of Discipleship

The price of discipleship is very great and whoever desires to follow in the footsteps of the Lord has to be really strong! Today, many people on  the spur of the moment express their desire to become clerics or to take up ministry in the service of the Lord, but often this leads to disillusionment when they realize that they have taken too big a leap and the hardships and difficulties were not what they had expected!This however does not mean that there have not been any disciples in the past nor will there be none in the future! History has taught us about the great deeds the twelve disciples and how they reached far off lands to spread the good news!
Fellowship and follower ship in the Christian way of life depends on unconditional surrender to the leadership of Jesus and what He stands for: faith, forgiveness, sacrifice, and service. The Book of St. Luke, Chapter 9, Verses 57 to 62 very clearly describes what Jesus expected from his followers. This chapter describes three men who wanted to follow Jesus. To the first man who wanted to follow him, Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the son of men has nowhere to lay his head.” This in itself is a reminder of the hardships that the follower of Faiths might have to undergo, perhaps even having to sleep in the open without the comfort of one’s comfy bed, and the warmth of one’s house! When another man expressed his desire to follow Jesus and Jesus said, “Follow me,” the man developed cold feet and replied, “ Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” The third man would have followed Jesus but then he wanted to be given time to “say farewell to those at my home.” Discipleship, incidentally requires very strong commitment and faith, and any instance of vacillation in Faith could undermine the very basis of follower ship!
Jesus is very categorical about what he expects from his disciples and his followers, and this expectation is clearly stated in the Book of St. Luke, Chapter 9, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” The disciple who wants to follow in the footsteps of The Lord should have the maturity, courage and  strength to press forward on a journey that is bound to be a difficult one, and also guard against apostasy or the abandoning of his beliefs. It is clear that Jesus expects his disciples to be able to rise above the material and worldly bonds that tie us to this Earth, preventing us from taking up the yoke of discipleship. Harsh though it may sound, there can be no bodies to bury, nor people  to bid farewell to at home because these are the stumbling blocks which come in the way of discipleship! Jesus challenges several would be disciples in  the book of St.Luke, 9:57-62 to a deeper commitment to the task in hand.
The question of the the price of Discipleship as unquestioning Faith, has often cropped up through my professional life as an educator and various people have come up with varied opinions about the meaning of faith. The Manager of a Christian Diocesan School in Haryana who has studied the Bible deeply made a distinction between Unquestioning Faith and Faith that is tempered with questions and doubts. It goes without saying that true Followership is dependent on absolute Faith and it cannot be weakened by doubts!  One cannot afford to be a  Doubting Thomas as this could lead to apostasy or the weakening of faith.  This is clearly not for those who want to follow  in Jesus’ footsteps! It was a tough task for the twelve disciples to follow in the footsteps of the Teacher, and many a times they might have stumbled, but then there faith held them upright before they could fall to the ground. Peter’s denial that he knew Jesus three times, Thomas’ inability to accept that Jesus had been crucified and his demand to see the proof are a few examples that show that the disciples were only human! The disciples too had families and friends whom they loved and cared for, and yet they were able to sacrifice everything they had in order to preach the word of forgiveness! The fact that the twelve disciples were only human and were able to fulfil their tasks so well is a matter of encouragement for all those who have put their minds and souls into the role of followership or discipleship. No task should be too great for those who have the conviction and faith in the risen Lord.  So, no  matter how steep the challenges, there will continue to be those who have chosen the path of sacrifice and renunciation as true followers of the good Lord! One should not be daunted by the decision, if one has the required sense of commitment and  trust in the good Lord!
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