“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Verse 28 in the seciton Luke 14:25-35.)
There’s a cost for all who trust Jesus. It’a hating mother, father, brother, sister, even one’s own life (verse 26). It’s bearing the cross (verse 27). It’s renouncing all that one has (verse 33). Jesus generously invites us to take him seriously – so seriously that nothing else matters.
To be honest and not manipulative, this costliness must feature when we ask people to become Christian. Evangelism calls people to count the cost of following the one who death for us is a priceless gift.
Udoh Osinyi understood some of this (only some, because he declined to become a Christian). Uncle Udoh is the man who raised his orphan nephew Isaiah Achebe. And Isaiah Achebe was father of the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe.
Chinua passes on the response of Udoh to being asked to convert:
[Udoh] said no, and pointed to the awesome row of insignia of his three titles. “What shall I do to these?” he had asked my father. It was an awesome question. What do I do to who I am? What do I do to history?
Udoh understood the cost of commitment, and was unwilling to pay.
To trust Christ is to trust Christ for a new identity, and even for a new history. All who believe the gospel can say, ‘I am not my past.’ This, wonderfully, is liberation: my ignorance and failure does not define me. This is also, and sadly, painful: we love to cling to our small achievments as if we might cease to exist without them.
Jesus’ words quoted above are more pointed for me than for Uncle Udoh. As far as I know, Udoh never started to follow Christ. Jesus’ theoretical tower-builder, however, started but was mocked for running out of cash: “This man began to build and could not finish!”
I fear the trap of following Jesus, but economising the cost of commitment. I fear making budget cuts along the way. I fear giving other Christians tacit permission to live with a half-built tower. I fear we may miss some of Christ’s riches because we love our own poverty too much.