The Cost of Discipleship
Once a young boy was attending the worship services, and upon observing the offering plate passing by asked his more experienced friend, "How much does it cost to come to church?" The more experienced boy answered, "I usually pay a quarter. My dad usually pays a dollar." What does it cost to go to church? It is quite possible to be an active member and participant in the local church and contribute nothing substantial to its ministry and expenses. There is no relationship between salvation and its resulting membership in the church of Jesus Christ, and any contribution or sacrifice made to the local church. Salvation is obtained by grace through faith, not by works or through the checkbook.
Some religions provide a means for their members to buy their way into good standing. For most that do this, righteousness is obtained through some set of works. For some, it is the submission to dogmatic theology. Some require their membership to turn all of their assets over to the church. All of these different concepts are in error, but try to do the same thing: justify its sinful members before a holy and perfect God.
Is there a real cost to being a Christian? Is there any real sacrifice that is expected of one who has turned his/her life over to the Lord Jesus?
1. Facing Rejection
This passage from the gospel of Luke records some of the experience and teaching of Jesus Christ as he left Galilee on his way to Jerusalem where he would ultimately suffer. To do so He had to pass through Samaria, or take the long way around this region by traveling east of the Jordan River.
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
These words, quite emphatically written in the Greek, describe the primary turning-point in Jesus' ministry. Because of the Jerusalem Jew's hatred of Jesus' message and the potential for unrest if His identity as the Messiah were generally known, Jesus' primary ministry took place around Capernaum of Galilee. Jesus had been teaching His disciples and preparing His apostles for about three years. With this work of preparation completed, it was time for Jesus to fulfill His mission of grace. The period of his Galilean ministry had come to an end, and the event of His passion is about to begin. The phrase, "set His face" is idiomatic, and refers to a final decision from which there is no repentance. Jesus' decision was resolute. He would now take his disciples and travel southward, towards Jerusalem, through the region of Samaria.
And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
What was the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans? Though the Jews were usually in conflict with all of their neighbors, they had a deep, historical hatred of the Samaritans. Following the division of the kingdom under David's grandson, Rehoboam, the northern kingdom of Israel never had a king who led the nation in obedience to God. The apostasy of the nation ended with its captivity to Assyria. After taking its leadership into exile, the Assyrian king populated Israel with foreigners in an effort to further dilute its nationality. As a result, the Jews of the northern kingdom, surrounding Samaria, intermarried with the foreign inhabitants, and remained apostate. Though the religious Samaritans still held to the Pentateuch as their law. they rejected all of the other Jewish traditions, and ignored the written and oral teachings of the Jerusalem Jews. Consequently, the hatred of the Samaritans by the Jerusalem Jews dated back for over 650 years. Certainly, the Samaritans thought little more of the Jerusalem Jews.
The direct trade route from Jerusalem northward went through the region of Samaria. However, many southern Jews traveled the additional distance around Samaria, east of the Jordan River, to avoid contact with the Samaritans. It appears that Jesus never avoided going through Samaria when passing from Galilee to Judea. The logistics of travel with a group this large necessitated sending messengers ahead to "prepare the way." Food and lodging would be needed. Today, people travel so frequently that most areas of the world are densely populated with hotels and restaurants. In the ancient near-east, travelers relied upon the hospitality of people along the way. With a group that probably numbered over 120, finding such lodging would not be a trivial task. Consequently, sending people in advance was necessary.
However, the messengers found that they were not welcomed by the Samaritans, and the needed hospitality was not found. When the Samaritans recognized the messengers as Jerusalem Jews, and found that they were traveling to Jerusalem, the old hatred and discrimination surfaced. The disciples found themselves objects of unfair prejudice and discrimination. Like the disciples traveling through a pagan region, Christians who are truly living as God's children will be treated with similar prejudice in this pagan world. In America, that prejudice may result in facing insults and rejection. In some nations in this world, Christians are treated with torture and death. More Christians have died a martyr's death in the 20th century than in the preceding nineteen.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56For the Son of man is not come to destroy menís lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
Often when the disciples are quoted, it is Peter whose words are recorded. In this event, it is the words of James and John. By quoting these, we see that their reaction to their treatment by the Samaritans is not an impulsive one. The years of mutual hatred between these two people-groups has shaped much of the thinking of the disciples, and the desire for retribution against the offense was common among them all. How do you respond to being treated is such a prejudicial manner? What do you do when you find yourself the object of people's blind hatred, and the expression of that hatred has a clear and detrimental effect on you? What is our typical response when we suffer such discrimination? The response of the disciples was a natural one that most people, bereft of God's love, would choose. They wanted to destroy the offenders by calling down fire from heaven to consume them. It is natural to be hurt and angry when so offended. However, as a disciple of the Messiah, such a response is inappropriate. God's purpose is not that people would be destroyed, but that people would be saved from their own destructive choices. God's response to all people is always one that is rooted in His love for them, and as Christians are called to be like Christ, their response should always be the same. Christians are taught to love their enemies, and by so doing, sew the seeds of faith. Take a look at Proverbs 25:21-22:
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee (Prov. 25:21-22).
What does it mean, to "heap burning coals of fire upon his head"? As a child, I observed this verse as a form of back-door retribution, that by treating an enemy with kindness they would suffer some other form of malady. However, the phrase is a Hebrew idiom that literally refers to the practice of lavishly giving burning embers to another who has let his fire go out during the night. The bowl used to carry these coals would be carried on one's head. The idiom refers to giving lavishly to one who does not deserve it. The passage states that when one expresses love towards an enemy with acts of kindness, God will provide reward.
As we look at the Christian calling as ministers of the Gospel, we will find that the Spirit-led response will always be one based first on the agape love of God. When a Christian experiences suffering for the cause of Christ, that suffering comes at the hands of people. God is the One who has the authority to ultimately judge the persecutor for his/her actions, whether that person is a church member abusing another, or an apostate who persecutes His child. God calls all Christians to express love, and to serve as agents of His kingdom purpose of salvation. Judgment may be left to God.
The disciple's response to their treatment was to earnestly desire the destruction of the city, certainly not a Spirit-led reaction. Though Jesus had been teaching the disciples about agape love, they did not actually receive the Holy Spirit until Jesus empowered them with the Holy Spirit in the upper room after the resurrection (John 20:22). We should never forget that fact when attempting to criticize the early acts of the disciples, and recognize a Christian who has received the Holy Spirit has no such excuse. The response of a godly person, according to the Proverb, would be to demonstrate our love towards the one who is dispensing abuse. Note the response of Jesus to this situation. Rather than stand and fight, destroy the city, or take any other action, He simply instructed the group to move on to another town. When one faces rejection an appropriate response may be to simply move on. Engaging in conflict could destroy any future opportunity for the Spirit to move in the heart of the oppressor. Events can take place on God's timetable rather than our own, and though it may be our desire to see events transpire before our own eyes, our purposes may not, and usually are not, the same as God's. So, one can simply trust in God's sovereignty and move on.
There is certainly a cost to following Jesus. Though He gives us peace, joy, strength, wisdom, and many other virtues, we are immersed in a perverse world which seeks to destroy anything that is not understood, or is different. Following Jesus takes a commitment because true discipleship acknowledges that Jesus is our Lord, our Supreme Authority, and our obedience to Him necessitates following Him. True discipleship necessitates being actively engaged in His kingdom work in this perverse world, a world that hates God.
2. Cost of Committing to Jesus
And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
I have had the privilege to spend many years as a minister of music in Christian churches. I would sometimes wonder as I would lead the popular hymn of commitment, "Wherever He Leads, I'll Go," if the people recognize what they are singing. I want to scream out to some, "Y'all are bearing false witness in the church!" as people share the testimony that they are willing to do whatever God calls them do do, but at the same time, the ministry of the church suffers when their only contribution to Kingdom work is their attendance in an hour service on Sunday morning. These are people who go home unchanged, returning to their apostate lifestyles only to return again next Sunday for another dose of righteousness. They know the Christian vocabulary and can talk the righteous talk, but they are clearly not committed to their discipleship under the Lord Jesus.
If one is committed to the things of this world, commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord does not come cheap. When people see Jesus, or when they hear the gospel message, what are some of the responses we observe? In the previous chapter Luke records Jesus' parable of the sower in which the variety of responses to the gospel message is illustrated. Actually, responses to the gospel message can be divided into two major categories, those who reject Jesus, and those who do not. Of those who do not, some never make a commitment and soon leave. Some never make a shallow commitment but continue to "hang around", reaping the benefits of fellowship but remain unchanged. Others make a deep and full commitment to God and their lives are never the same again.
It is easy to say, "I'll follow you wherever you go." It's quite another to do it. There is a cost. Here Jesus met a man along the road. Matt:8:19 reveals that this man was a teacher of the law. As a Samaritan, the law that this man teaches would not be diluted by the traditions and hedge laws of the Jerusalem Jews. The man had met Jesus and desired to be His disciple. To follow Jesus was a significant act since it involves adopting his teachings, his lifestyle, and accept His authority. In a burst of confident commitment, this teacher of the law promised that he would follow Jesus wherever He might lead.
And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
The man said, in an almost boastful and sweeping manner that he would follow Christ. It appears Jesus perceived the lack of true commitment in the man's statement. Jesus warned the the man that to follow would require a step of faith. He would have to leave behind the life as he knew it and take the risk of the life ahead, trusting in God alone. As a teacher of the Law, this man had the respect of the people, and had a stable and successful career. Would he be willing to give this up to follow Jesus? The man would have to change his priorities, depending upon God to provide for his needs, a provision that he had successfully maintained himself.
What does this say about our pilgrimage as disciples? (If we follow Jesus, we will have to be willing to do the same. We must act in faith and let God be God. Why did this man apparently reject Jesus? He could not leave the security of his lifestyle and step out in faith, experiencing the sufferings the Jesus experienced along with the joys.
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
Here we see a similar request from another man, who like the first, was probably a Samaritan. It appears at first that Jesus' response was a bit harsh, but as we look at the situation, another truth is revealed. Was the man grieving his father's death? If his father had just died the man would be with his family attending to the responsibilities appropriate to the situation. Actually, the words used by the man form a common Hebrew idiom that refers to taking care of the father in his old age, awaiting his death so that the inheritance can be received. This man though that if he followed Jesus he would lose his inheritance.
Understating this, Jesus' response may make more sense. Worldly inheritance will always remain in the possession of worldly people. Those who chase after the inheritance, the mammon of this world, will be the ones who receive it, and upon receiving, fail to receive the true inheritance that only God gives to those who trust in Him. Jesus called upon the man to "Go and proclaim the kingdom of God.", with the implication by the word, "Go", that he is to leave the old world behind.
The first man valued his security and comfort so much that it stood in the way of following Jesus. This second man's commitment was to the inheritance of the things of this world. Note that in their day, the "inheritance" was a specific and primary valued thing. It had ties to their ancestry, their progeny, and served to define who they were. The man would have to dramatically change his priorities if he were to surrender his inheritance. It might be interesting to note that still today, practicing Jews who come to understand that Jesus is the Messiah and turn to Him in faith are almost always disinherited by their families. The cost is real. However, it is still a great cost only if the things of this world hold a high place of importance in the person's heart.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
What happened to this third man? Note he said, "let me first..." He could not place Jesus first in his life. Where the second man wanted to delay his discipleship for an extended period, this third man wanted to delay it only for a short period. This man revealed that his heart was still committed to his home. The call of Jesus would not be first in his life. Wanting to look back now, his desire would always be to return to his pagan home and its lifestyle. Again, this man was not fully committed to his decision to follow Christ.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
What was Jesus' response? When we make the commitment to follow Jesus, like the plowman, we cannot look back. What happens when a plowman turns around and looks back? As he guides the plow with one hand and the beast of burden with the other, balancing both as he focuses on the end of the furrow, he would lose orientation if he were to look back. With the target out of sight, the furrow would soon be crooked. The same analogy today might apply in riding a bicycle. Imagine the task of riding a bicycle on a path that is only slightly wider than the tires. This can be done if the focus on the path is maintained. However, what will happen when the rider takes his eyes off of the path and looks back? I rest my case.
Christians leave behind a lifestyle and perspective that is characterized only in sin. What happens if we look back? We are often tempted, and lose focus on our objective. One of the shorter verses in the book of Luke is:
Remember Lot's wife! (Luke 17:32 ).
What happened to her? Lot and his wife lived a riotous and ungodly lifestyle in a riotous and ungodly city. Because of the prayers of Abraham, God spared Lot and his family by commanding their evacuation from Sodom prior to its destruction. God commanded them not to look back. This command was not as related to a visual glimpse back as it is to the attitude of their heart. Lot's wife looked back to Sodom when she grieved its loss. Her desire was for Sodom, and she was destroyed with it. In the same way, a commitment to the Lord is a commitment to leave behind the ungodly acts of this wicked world. This third man could not do it. Many who call themselves Christians have been similarly encumbered in their commitment, and find their experience burdened by their sin and lacking the power of God in their lives. Leaving behind the things of this world is extremely difficult for those who love them.
3. Cost of Going Forth for Jesus
After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
Did these three men reject the call or follow Jesus? We have no way of knowing, though the context seems to imply that they could not overcome their commitment to their "old" life. Since Jesus identified the specific stumbling block to each individual, it is possible that they went away. In any event, Jesus did appoint seventy followers to join Him on the journey to Jerusalem. These are seventy who were able to overcome the pull of this world, overcome the tempting voice of the evil one, and follow Jesus.
Where Jesus had already commissioned the disciples to preach to the Jews (Matt. 10:6), these seventy disciples had no such restriction. Actually, many of them were probably Samaritans. He organized them in pairs and gave them some instructions. The fact that there were "another" seventy sent is curious. Moses appointed seventy elders. Also, the Jews counted seventy nations which might metaphorically imply sending them out to the whole world. The actual number sent is unclear, since the modifier translated "other seventy" implies additional appointment. In any event, He sent them.
Up to this point, the disciples had experienced the security and comfort of Jesus' continued fellowship. Jesus' period of ministry was drawing to an end, and it was time for the disciples to start to step out on their own. Leaving the fellowship of the Master is a cost that is not dissimilar to that experienced by the previous three who came to Jesus. Many are satisfied to stay close to home, comforted by the walls of their church sanctuary and the fellowship they experience within them. To step outside of the walls can be scary. However, God has called people to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium. The call to faith is a call to take part in God's kingdom purpose that spreads out far beyond the walls of the church fellowship. The greatest strength of the Christian church is its empowerment by the Holy Spirit to take the gospel message to the lost world. The greatest weakness of the Christian church is its failure to do so. Just as the things of this world must be left behind to follow Jesus, the security and nurture that is found in the church fellowship must also be occasionally left behind in order to bring the gospel message to those who are not part of it.
4. Cost of Sharing Ministry through Prayer
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
The first instruction that Jesus gave to the disciples was to pray. What were they to pray for? It seems illogical to pray for more religious workers in this Jewish culture. Were there not 24 courses of Rabbis, who each served in the temple only a couple weeks a year? The Jews probably had more Rabbis and religious leaders than any nation on the face of the earth. Why did Jesus need workers? Not all who consider themselves religious are working for the Kingdom of God. It is plain that the field to be harvested included the non Jew, the Jews, and even the Jewish leadership. Do we face a similar scenario today? We find the lost inside the churches as well as outside, and the evidence of the church's current apostasy is illuminated by statistics that show little difference between the lifestyle sins of members of the church and those who are not...Consequently a vast number of religious leaders, ministers, priests, deacons, elders, etc. are lost. They have accepted a career without first accepting and committing to Jesus Christ as their Lord, and they lead their congregations in their apostasy. This was exactly the same in Jesus' day.
The harvest is plentiful. There are billions of lost people in the world waiting to experience God's love from a Christian. Christians are called to be part of the harvest, and to pray that more are called to the ministry. Perhaps, as a Christian for the first time truly and earnestly prays for laborers from his/her secure place in the pew, God can move in that person's heart to step away from the pew and step out in faith. I am reminded of the sound advice that Frank, a Christian friend and brother, shared with me almost twenty years ago when I served in a small church in upstate New York: Whenever you pray, remember that God may be calling you to be active in the answer to the prayer that He put on your heart.
5. Cost of Trusting Jesus Totally
Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.
Jesus reveals that the disciples will experience a real cost to their faithfulness as they step out of the comfort zone of his physical presence and seek to be part of God's kingdom purpose in the world. Just as wolves are seen as natural enemies by sheep, those who are lost are the natural enemies of the saved, and like defenseless sheep, Christians are without any worldly defense against this wicked world that would seek to devour them. This lost world seeks to degrade and destroy that which is godly with the ravenous motivation of hungry wolves. Christians are fully immersed in a wicked world and subject to its influence constantly. We invite it into our homes, are entertained by it in the media, we swim in it at work, and even bring some of it with us into the Christian fellowship. We must never forget our precarious relationship with the world and the power that it has to turn our focus away from our calling and produce a crooked furrow. Christians are missionaries who are immersed in a world of sin. This is analogous to sheep who are immersed in a den of wolves. The only defense a Christian has against the evil of this world is the power of the Holy Spirit, the very power of God that will fully overcome Satan and enable the Christian to minister effectively.
Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.
The purse refers to a moneybag. The disciples are commanded to leave their moneybags at home and trust God for their needs, receiving all they require from those to whom they minister. "Bag" or "Scrip" refers to a travel bag which was used to carry provisions. Beggars used them. Jesus was telling them not to be beggars. The sandals were considered a mark of humility. To go barefoot was that much more humble. As a bivocational minister, I find a bit of hypocrisy in this statement, a hypocrisy that has often frustrated me and created conflict in my spirit. As a bivocational minister, I can serve in congregations that are too small to "afford" a full time minister. However, my experience has been that, if all of the church members were obedient to the tithe, I would not have to hold down another job. So, my reluctance to give up the job is combined with the reluctance of the congregation to be obedient to the tithe. Together, we are successful in ministry, but how much more would we all be doing if we were fully committed and obedient to Christ?
Consequently, it is the responsibility of the church to take care of the needs of its ministers. The paucity of the lifestyle expected of ministers is famous. The unwillingness of the congregation to provide fully for its ministers is a grave testimony to their disobedience and their desire to hold on to the things of this world. Some churches are quite willing to give the bulk of their gifts to the local bank to pay the interest on a mortgage so they can have a big building, and give little attention to their pastor who is struggling to balance the needs of the congregation with his own. The command to carry neither a purse or scrip necessitates similar obedience among those who receive the benefits of the ministry, and it is their responsibility to honor this same command by providing for the minister's needs. Note that this command is imbedded within a lesson on the cost of discipleship. The minister can expect to suffer as he will always be called to minister to those who are in need of ministry, and have not yet made a full commitment to God. So, the struggle is expected.
Finally, greeting someone along the road has a specific meaning. Jesus was not telling the disciples to ignore those along the road. They were told to go to them and proclaim the Kingdom. The words used here for greet, or salute, refers to a traditional ceremonial greeting that was both time-consuming and distracting. It was a greeting that involved the exchange of words and the exchange of gifts. To take part in this traditional, if not pagan, greeting would distract them from their true purpose. They were to stay true to their mission and not distracted by the rewards that could be offered.
So we see in this short verse, four characteristics of the Christian pilgrimage. Trust God for needs, do not beg for them, maintain a humble spirit, and do not be distracted from the original call.
And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. 6And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.
"Shalom" was the common Jewish greeting, as it still is today. A "Son of peace" is an idiomatic reference to one who is "Waiting for the consolation of Israel" (2:25). This is someone who is open to hearing the gospel message. If this is someone who will receive the gift, then the gift is to be given, the disciple is to remain with the "son of peace," and together both will mature in the faith.. If the gift is rejected what happens? Love is like a cold: you can give it all away and still keep it all for yourself. When rejected, God's love still remains with the faithful messenger, for it is not the messenger who is being rejected, but rather the message of God that is brought. God can face rejection and still love the one who rejects. The messenger can learn to do the same.
And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
The disciples were taught to maintain a stable ministry, being satisfied with the way that their needs were met by those to whom they minister. Furthermore, they were not to treat what they received as charity. Just as those who supported their ministry were responsible to do so, they were not to feel guilt over receiving it. Often we falter in this area in ministry. Like I do, we may choose to minister using our own resources, removing from those to whom we minister the responsibility for stewardship, or when receiving something for our ministry we will feel guilty or embarrassed. Jesus instructs us to accept what is given to us by those to whom we minister with grace and love. Here he also instructs us to support those who minister to us.
Another charge to the disciples is to eat and drink what is served to them. This could be a particularly difficult thing for many of the disciples to do. Those, like the apostles who are practicing Jews, have been taught to avoid certain "unclean" foods. However, they are not in Judea, they are in Samaria where there may not be such prohibitions in the homes they enter. What are they to do when they are offered something that is prohibited in their religious tradition? Jesus' charge is clear and explicit: set aside religion's traditions for the more important issue of the person's need: eat the food. I was initiated in this experience when engaged in mission work in Belarus, one of the former Russian republics and now an independent nation. As one of the first groups to enter this country, my wife and I were invited to stay in the home of a warm and friendly family who spoke no English. Speaking virtually no Russian, our communication was difficult, and at first was limited to smiles and gestures. Arriving late in the evening, the family had set before us what for them was an extravagant meal. As we prepared to eat, the host offered me a small glass from which to share a toast, a glass that contained what I can only guess was his finest vodka. As a Baptist minister I am a member of a denomination that often rejects alcohol in the same vehemence that the ancient Jews rejected unclean foods. Having to make an instant decision, I weighed the importance of my religious tradition against the confusion that my rejection of the toast would have engendered. I took part in the toast. The next day I was bombarded with questions for advice as other members of our group faced the same question, and I counseled them from Luke 10:7, advising that they partake, but only to the extent that was necessary to avoid embarrassing or insulting our hosts. The result was a very successful ministry that produced tremendous fruit for the Kingdom of God.
Jesus teaches that the needs of those to whom we minister are greater than our own. God did not call Christians to impress their traditions and culture upon others. God called Christians to make disciples for His kingdom. Sometimes there is a vast difference. Stepping into other cultures can be as difficult a sacrifice as the others that Jesus has described in this passage. Doing so may require a step of faith, and may require one to reevaluate priorities, even religious ones. I am reminded that Christianity is a faith, not a religion. We are called to bring people to faith in God, not to be part of a religion. This may be a difficult lesson for us, and it was certainly a difficult lesson for the early disciples who were so steeped in their Jewish religious tradition.
Finally, Christians are not called to go from house to house. That is, Christians are to be satisfied where God has placed them and concentrate on the ministry itself rather than the place from which it is done. This does not mean that God may move us. We are to concentrate on our current ministry and not waste time, energy, and ministry investment by looking elsewhere, or moving around all the time.
And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: 9And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
To the disciples, the town to which they were sent was their place of ministry. The charge is the same to Christians today. Though we minister in the local church, the focus of our ministry should be outside of its walls. We have become spiritually introverted and seek to exercise our ministry within the walls of the church. Consequently, our people are not growing, and in their suffering require more ministry within the walls. It will not be until we get outside the walls that we will receive the fullness of our ministry, and will find the church to be a place of comfortable assembly where we can nurture one another, learn more of God's kingdom, and be refreshed so that we can return to our main ministry: the town.
Note that our ministry to the town is two-fold. Ministering to the sick involves addressing the physical needs of others. Telling of the kingdom involves addressing the spiritual needs of others. The ministry described by Jesus is relational. We create relationships with people, and by demonstrating our love for them by addressing their physical needs, gain the trust which allows us to minister to their spiritual needs. To much of our witness as Christians has been destroyed by getting the two out of order.
An example of the importance of that relational model is enhanced by the command to eat whatever is placed before them. Many of these are Jewish men, and we know that the apostles were deeply steeped in their Jewish heritage. That heritage forbade the eating and drinking of certain "unclean" commodities. However, they are called to minister in a culture that has no such prohibitions. What should the disciple do if served
What do you do when your ministry is rejected, whether within the town or within the church? There are also times when it is appropriate to move on.
6. Cost of Rejection for Jesus' Sake
But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, 11Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 12But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
I like to refer to this last verse as the "heel dust" verse. Our response to rejection is simple... leave quietly, without engendering conflict. If our testimony is rejected we are not called upon to fight, or to try to force our position upon those receiving the message. 1 John illustrates that it is necessary for the Holy Spirit to draw someone to accept our testimony, and should they resist the Spirit, there is little the messenger can do. If this is the case, we cannot preempt or precede the Spirit of God. Our response is one that should not compromise our love for those to whom we testify. However, God has a sense of justice. As a sign of our effort, the dust on our shoes, which represents the territory of their own domain, is a testimony against them. However, the judgment against "that city" is fully the responsibility and domain of God. The Christian is encouraged to know that that final justice will always be appropriate.
When the messenger carries away the results of rejection, ranging anywhere from dust, to hunger, or even injury either physical or emotional, those results are the very substance of testimony against those who have rejected God. As a symbol we can "wipe the heel dust" from our shoes, and according to these verses, they will ultimately choke on it when God is the one who does the judging. That should motivate us all the more to pray for those who reject God so that they will not face that final judgment.
There is a cost to discipleship. It means changing our priorities so that God is first. It means leaving that which was the old world and embracing the new, focused on the call that Jesus has given us. That call means to continue to learn of Him, his will, and His Word, and to share Christian Love with all of those we meet, addressing their physical needs, and where possible, addressing their spiritual needs to the extent which God has empowered.
The cost is great: A completely changed life. What do we get in return? Joy. Peace. Salvation. Love. The witness of saved souls. All of these are those things the lost world searches for. We've found it. It's time to share it.