editorial

"Counting The Cost"


          Dr. William Willimon was the Dean of the Duke Chapel at Duke University when it was decided to put an ad in the campus paper about upcoming chapel programs.  Dr. Willimon heard all kinds of suggestions about how to capture the attention of those who might consider coming to the Chapel and investigating Christianity:  Are you looking for a deeper meaning in life?  Would you like to be able to approach your work with more enthusiasm?  Does your marriage need a boost? 

          After considering those suggestions and several others, Dr. Willimon wondered what would happen if instead, they put Jesus’ words found in Luke 14:  “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, cannot be my disciple.”  No, that would have certainly been a PR disaster! 

          Or, perhaps one of Jesus’ other points from his sermon in Luke 14:  “If you won’t carry a cross, you cannot follow me.  Anybody who begins to build a tower without counting the cost runs the risk of looking stupid when he runs out of materials and can’t finish the tower.  Any king who goes to war without first considering whether or not he has the troops to win the war, may look dumb as he begs for peace – so count the cost!”   There would have been no way to put a good spin on that kind of ad either! 

          We have become so accustomed in this country to slick consumer advertising that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to advertise what Jesus asked of people in order to become his disciples!  Such an ad would fly in the face of what we have been so trained to be – the best possible consumers who get the very best deals for the least amount of investment.  Jesus’ price would simply cost too much, which is, of course, Jesus’ point, isn’t it? 

          That is hard for us American Christian consumers to hear because everything about who we are and how we purchase contributes to the temptation to make the price of Christianity as affordable as possible.  But, if we give in to that urge, then, as Dr. Willimon warns, we will be guilty of false advertising – trying to price Christianity for less than what Jesus said it would cost.  Have we confused consumerism with the gospel?  Are we ready to die to whatever is necessary in our lives to share the good news?   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        John Harp