Calculating the Cost

sacrificeEvery major life decision has a cost.   Some we understand from the beginning…When you choose to be a parent, for example, you know there will be real sacrifices along the way–from dealing with stinky diapers to paying for college. With your eyes wide open, you– responsible parents who have chosen to raise children– will set your wants aside in favor of your children’s needs.  Then through the years, though still more sacrifices are needed, one day you realize that you’d give it all up again–your time, resources, sleep, freedom, and yes, even the best/last piece of dessert– for the benefit of your “babies”, no matter how old they get. 🙂

The cost of other major life decisions may catch us unawares, however. When I became a Christ follower in my early 30’s, I knew about some sacrifices that would come with this choice, but I hadn’t a clue about the the real cost of being a Christian in today’s world. Naively I thought that my new religion meant I would have to give up the theatre, change all of my political opinions, and start dressing uber-conservatively.  As it turned out, none of those things were true.  See, I didn’t settle for being a Christian in name and blindly follow some prescribed religious code of behavior- actually that’s just legalism.  I wanted to KNOW this Jesus, and our relationship has become the central one of my life.  Have I made some lifestyle sacrifices since becoming a Christ follower?  Absolutely– but not because I was required to do so.  I’ve made changes in my life because once I understood more about who God is, and how He loves me, my thinking has changed, and thus, my actions have changed.

Some costs I correctly expected to see include things like: being marginalized in our society by those who assume all Christians are a bunch of ignorant, judgmental, right-wing, wack-o-doodles.  Sadly there are isolated pockets of sign waving, book burning loonies that do the rest of us no favors…  I also have to admit, though I expected trials and opposition, (God’s Word promises His followers this) I have still been surprised by the keeping-me-at-distance of now wary, former close friends and family members.

Then there are the costs I never saw coming… spiritual warfare that increases in intensity the closer we follow Christ, conviction that keeps us humble by compelling us to admit our failures and brokenness, and certain activities that we’re asked to give up because they trigger us.  Understand, our loving Heavenly Father isn’t out to punish us, or force us into a drab existence. Rather He knows what damages us, individually, and it is out of His love for us that we come to experience the desire to let these things go.

In my case, I’m very visual, and during my personal journey, I’ve been learning where I have to turn off the TV, or avoid movies that aren’t good for me.  I’m not saying these are bad– just that for ME, I can’t watch them without having disturbing thoughts and nightmares.  Then recently, I started having similar reactions to a current piece of fiction that is just “too dark” for me to handle.  I confess I was bummed at first.  I’ve always loved to read; the idea that some of it will now be off limits is a real sacrifice.  But I wouldn’t trade a thing; the blessings of this major life decision have far outweighed the costs!    Where I have developed a sensitivity to the darkness around me, I am also more aware of His Presence and His Light!!

How about you?  Are your choices worth the cost?


Holy Week: part 2 (Blood)

crossOne of the creepiest concepts to me when I was exploring Christianity was all the talk (and all the songs) about the “Blood of the Lamb”.  Ewww!  Of course I had no problem watching movies about serial killers, or tv programs that showed autopsies and mangled corpses– but this death on the cross was too much.  (Our culture has trained us well, hmm?)

When we really look at the blood in context, however, we actually see more of this Great Love Story, and how all of this blood points to the heart of God.

When Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, blood was shed for the first time.  Notice that God still loves His children, (He doesn’t slay them) but He clothes them in animal skins to cover their nakedness, and sends them away.  God’s standard was made clear from the beginning: The penalty for sin is death.

Animal sacrifices to appease the gods were common to nearly every culture in the ancient world.  The Jewish people also offered sacrifices to God for their sins.  Yet one death, one sacrifice was never enough.  Each year the ritual had to be repeated to atone for all of the wrongs committed in the previous year.  No matter how “good” a person could be,  there was no way to live a life free of sinful thoughts, behaviors, and resulting destruction.

In case you’re thinking God’s ways are cruel, history shows us human beings are much worse.  Hammurabi’s Code, generally recognized as the earliest form of written laws, seeks an eye for an eye, and a life for a life.  Today, even our entertainment shows how we have grown numb to senseless violence, and though our culture values “tolerance” as a cherished virtue, we still have a death penalty in the U.S.

From the ancient world to the present, blood is generally recognized as a life force.  When it’s donated at blood banks we are “giving life”, and when it’s poured out, it signals death.  However, our Heavenly Father who is Holy ( & can’t be around sin)  wants each of us to join Him for Eternal Life, and so He came up with a rescue plan!  Again, while we may think of it as weird, who are we to judge?  We’re not God; we didn’t create the universe.  I can tell you since I began walking with Him, I’ve been so grateful that He is the one in control and calling the shots!! 🙂

At what Christians call, “The Last Supper”, Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover feast–commemorating when the Israelite slaves in Egypt were passed over by the angel of death, after they painted the blood of lambs over their doors.  Later Jesus would be arrested, tortured, and ultimately nailed to a cross.  Communion–the eating of bread (Christ’s body), and drinking from the cup (Christ’s blood)– is all about remembering the death WE deserve for our sin, and that Jesus paid the price for us with His life!

Now for me, reflecting on the crucifixion at Easter isn’t a gory exercise, nor is it about beating myself up about my failures.  Our Father knows we are forgetful, and has simply given us a powerful reminder that HE LOVES US THAT MUCH!!