The Costs of Discipleship

73. The Costs of Discipleship

The language is extreme, but the meaning is clear. To enter into the kingdom of God, we must first detach completely from everything temporal. The religious scholar Huston Smith noted that the one teaching common to all of the world’s great religions is this concept of detachment – of renouncing all that we have; of surrendering completely to the will of God.

Why is this a condition, or a cost, of being a disciple? Using today’s language, Jesus is talking about an evolutionary leap in consciousness, and like all evolutionary leaps, it cannot be made halfway. Creatures cannot adapt to the land if they never leave the water. Or master the skies if they never leave the earth. A relationship with God is an environing relationship; it molds us spiritually, as the Earth has molded us physically. But for the environing to work, we must submit completely.

And to what are we submitting ? A will greater than our own that permits us one response: To love all. That means we cannot love some part of creation more than we love the whole of creation. If we do, both will ultimately perish. Look at the Israelis and the Palestinians. Each is acting in what it perceives to be its own best interest, but the outcomes serve the interests of neither. Only when each acts for the good of both will a true resolution be possible.

Attachments always place the interests of some part above the interests of the whole, and as a result threaten the existence of both. Detachment places the interests of the whole above the parts, and serves the well being of both.

[See also “Some Costs of Discipleship” (Commentary 10-49), and “Some Tests of Discipleship (Commentary 11-57).]