The Whole Truth and Nothing But

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In our anxiety to get people to become believers we sometimes “fudge” a little on the facts of discipleship. We certainly don’t want to scare anyone away, right?

But our Lord never made it easy. Yes, he demonstrated and taught forgiveness, love, and acceptance, but He always talked about cost. Salvation is free; discipleship costs everything.

In Matthew 8:18-22 we witness a confrontation with a couple of men who had been present during the Lord’s sermon on the mount. The first was a teacher of the law (8:19). He knew all the rules and probably did a fairly decent job of keeping them. But Jesus chose to challenge him on the issue of his lifestyle. The teacher said that he was willing to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went. Perhaps he assumed that would be from one Holiday Inn to another Holiday Inn. Jesus burst that bubble by saying: “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (8:20).

We aren’t told if the man took up the challenge of leaving all his comforts behind to follow Jesus or walked away.

Another man, called a disciple so we can assume he was already following Jesus, asked for permission to go back home and “bury his father” (8:21). We assume the father had already died from Jesus’ answer. If we look back at verse 18 we see that the Lord was about to cross the lake and the disciple wanted a leave of absence before taking a journey which would make it even more difficult for him to get back for his father’s funeral. Jesus replied: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (the spiritually dead look after the physically dead).

We don’t know what this disciple did; if he walked away from family to follow the Lord or if he took that journey across the lake.

We wonder why most churches have a revolving back door. There are many answers to that concern, some of which are not simple. But certainly one of the reasons people come in the front door as believers and then exit through the back door is their discovery, upon entering, that we haven’t told them the whole story. Salvation is free, but discipleship costs. As much as we might want to argue that those who walk away must not have been believers at all since they didn’t persevere, we need to remember that the sin of omission is just as much a sin as that of commission.

Confronted with the whole story, these people might still have walked away. But better that than have them make a profession based on a half-truth and discover that those who claimed to have the truth actually lied to them by not telling the whole story. Salvation is free, but following Jesus will cost everything.


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