"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?"
Out of context, this first verse seems to say that it is okay to hate people... and yet, in context, it teaches a really important lesson. Dedication to God requires *everything.* We can't do it halfway. We can't hold anything back. There can't be anything that could ever happen that would make us give up on God. And in that context, Christ says here, basically, that we can't put our families or our own lives before him. We have to be willing to do as he did, and sacrifice ourselves, and everything that we love. As we make that decision to dedicate ourselves to God and follow him, he tells us the cost up front. This will cost us everything that we have and everything that we are. Are we still willing to do it? To give up who we are, and be new people? That's a big question. And it is one that we need to understand and answer for ourselves before we go forward, promising our lives to the Lord. ... God doesn't always test us the way that he did Job, by taking everything away. And sometimes, in his infinite grace, he give us many things that add comfort and meaning. But no matter what our blessings, we have to be willing to let them go for God, and if there is anything in our lives that we find more important than God, we're going to have to face that choice before our test of life is over... like Abraham, being asked to sacrifice his son. God sent him a ram instead, and he often blesses us abundantly after the test, but Abraham had to know what God was requiring of him, and how important that choice was. Just as we do.
God asks a lot, but in the end, he will also give us all that he has... and he has everything. But to get there, we have to be willing to "take up our cross" and sacrifice even our own lives if it is asked of us. Otherwise, nothing else will work, because our whole heart isn't there. If we'll only worship whoever does what we want, or lets us keep our stuff, or our favorite addiction, then we will be worshipping someone else entirely. If we can't dedicate our hearts and minds to God, then we *cannot* reach our potential. It isn't about slavery, or God wanting puppet people, but about learning this lesson of life and becoming perfect. No one can learn that lesson while holding anything back.
If we were going to build a tower, we would sit down first and make sure that we could handle the payments, and that we had the financing to accomplish the task. Today, let's do the same with our dedication to God. Let's understand that it could cost everything that we have and are... and make sure that we are willing to follow this commitment through to the end.