Click here to go to the King of Peace home page

The Rev. Frank Logue
King of Peace Episcopal Church
Kingsland, Georgia
September 5, 2004

Redefining Commitments
Luke 14: 25-33

Walking along the roads toward Jerusalem must have been exciting. A healing here and there. Some enigmatic teaching from a charismatic leader. The crowds must have sensed that Jesus was on the verge of something big. The world was changing and this Jesus was part of it.

Jesus knows what is really happening. He is making his way to Jerusalem and while there he will be put to death. Yes, he will be resurrected, but Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to face torture and death. Looking around him, Jesus must have sensed a very different attitude in the crowds he was attracting.

Jesus is heading toward The Passion of the Christ, while the crowds have signed on for The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or maybe a few days walking with a miracle worker, or perhaps just a jaunt to see what all the fuss is about.

Luke begins today’s Gospel reading by telling us, “Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and to them and said.” Perhaps we should not be surprised that the tough teaching which follows is intended to be a reality check for the crowds. These people have not been with Jesus from the beginning. Most of the people in the crowd have not been with Jesus through the week. Jesus warns these Johnny-come-lately disciples to count the cost before filing in to join this parade, and the costs are high.

Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

That doesn’t sound very Christian of Jesus, and it certainly would not have sounded very Jesus. Hating your father and mother? What about the commandment to Honor Your Father and Mother? Hate your wife? What about the two shall become one flesh and what God has joined together let no one put asunder? By the time he is finished we must hate life itself and we are to be consigned to drudging through life in a funeral procession with our own cross slung over our backs, carrying our own instrument of shameful death with us as we plod through the rest of our miserable lives. It would have been about this point that the crowd started to thin.

Jesus goes on as much of the crowd begins to wander back home comparing a decision to follow Jesus to counting the cost before building a tower or a king deciding whether his troops can win a battle long before the opposition is on the battlefield.

Let’s take a harder look at Jesus words. Can he really be contradicting one of the Ten Commandments—honor your father and mother? Can he really mean we must hate? No. Not really.

Both the Greek and Hebrew words behind the word hate hear carry different connotations from the English word hate. The Hebrew word sahnay we usually translate as hate comes from a root word for “change” and means “to turn away, or to detach yourself,” while the Greek word miseo means “to love less.” /p>

I am not taking away the counter-cultural edge to Jesus words. To stand and proclaim that you should love your family less and you should detach yourself from them would have been pretty shocking teaching. However, Jesus is not preaching an aversion or hostility toward one’s family. Instead, Jesus is calling on the gathering crowds to redefine their commitments. Everyone and everything is to be loved less than God.

But why are we counting the cost at all. Last week, I stood right here and proclaimed, “ even though you didn’t deserve it, God loved you fully, completely, overwhelmingly.” If we didn’t deserve it or earn it, isn’t God’s love free? What are these costs Jesus is now counting, and why do the costs seem so high?

I think no one is better at helping us count the cost of deciding to follow Jesus as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor working during the rise and rule of Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer would die just two weeks before Hitler, hanged in a German Prisoner of War camp on Hitler’s direct orders. It was the cost the Lutheran Pastor paid for boldly proclaiming and trying to love out the Gospel in Nazi Germany.

Eight years earlier, in 1937, Bonhoeffer wrote a book called the Cost of Discipleship in which he wrote of cheap grace and costly grace. Bonhoeffer began his book saying, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.”

He went on to outline what we meant writing,

Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto, a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Later Bonhoeffer goes on to show the distinction between cheap grace, which he sees as an empty promise and costly grace, which he sees as Christ’s true teaching.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all the he has….it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought 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 his 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.

Not one to mince words, Bonhoeffer wrote further in the same book, “Those who try to use grace as a dispensation from following Christ are simply deceiving themselves.”

The love of God is still free. You still do not have to earn it. But before accepting the free gift, you should be aware that there is a cost that comes later. Forgiveness of sins is just the beginning, it is followed by a call to go and sin no more. Being united to God through Christ is also just the beginning; it is followed by a call to redefine all of your commitments in the light of that relationship.

Jesus had some tough words for the growing crowds that day along the road to Jerusalem and so I am left with some tough words this morning. But Jesus words were tinged with grace and so are mine. Jesus warns that in the end, the cost is your very life. At this point, I guess I should expect that the congregation has thinned out.

But for those who stay for the rest of the message, there is a good reason to love everything else less than God. The grace in this tough teaching is that the life Jesus gives you in return is more than you could ask for or imagine. I don’t mean in the by and by, but in the here and now. Jesus’ inner circle did not stay on the road with him in the hopes of something better in the next life, but because Jesus’ words bring life in our present time as well. Jesus still brings that abundant life, but it is not cheap and we should count the cost and redefine all our commitments before we decide to continue to follow Jesus on the way.



[1] While, I did my own work on the Greek and Hebrew, I am nonetheless here and elsewhere indebted to the work of Fred Craddock in his volume on Luke for the Interpretation series.

Families matter at King of PeaceCommunity matters at King of PeaceKids matter at King of PeaceTeens @ King of PeaceInvestigate your spirituailty at King of PeaceContact King of Peace
Who are we?What are we doing?When does this happen?Where is King of Peace?Why King of Peace?How do we worship at King of Peace?

click on this cross to return to the home page

King of Peace Episcopal Church + P.O. Box 2526 + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526