The Cost of Soldiership

In order to be true disciples of Jesus, we must be willing to give up our money, families, possessions and even our very lives.

April 11, 2012 by Rob Perry


Christians in the West have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The vast majority of western Christians are church members, pew-fillers, hymn-singers, sermon-tasters, Bible-readers, even born-again believers or Spirit-filled charismatics—but not true disciples of Jesus. If we were willing to learn the meaning of real discipleship the impact on society would be staggering.
David Watson,
Discipleship, Vision and Mission

In Luke 14:25-35, a large crowd is following Jesus. As was his pattern, when the crowds got too large, Jesus went out of his way to teach something a little bit shocking, uncomfortable or hard to handle. This would thin the crowds, leaving only the most dedicated. It seemed that Jesus was more interested in deep commitment by the few than shallow lip service by the many.

On this particular occasion, Jesus challenged the crowd by explaining the true cost of being his disciple. He claimed that in order to follow him we must disregard our families and “hate” our very lives. He said that to be truly committed we must be willing to face suffering and execution.

Jesus then used two analogies to drive home his point. The first was building a tower. Before construction begins, a builder must ask himself, “Do I have enough money to complete this project?” If not, he shouldn’t even begin, because a half-completed job would only cause him to be ridiculed. Jesus’ second analogy was that of an army going to war. Before the battle, the king must ask himself, “Do I have enough soldiers to win?” If not, he should seek a treaty.

Jesus points out that just like building a tower or going to war, before embarking on a life of discipleship, one must count the cost. And what is this cost? The cost of following Jesus, of becoming his disciple and following his will, is, in short, everything. “Those of you who do not give up everything you have,” Jesus says, “cannot be my disciples” (see Luke 14:33). To be a true disciple of Jesus means giving up our money, families, possessions and even our very lives. That is the cost.

Perhaps the seventh promise statement in The Salvation Army’s Soldier’s Covenant is partially inspired by Luke 14: I will be actively involved, as I am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

This statement speaks to giving a sacrificial amount of our time to the work of the corps, and it challenges us to give as much money as we can to support the work of The Salvation Army.

When The Salvation Army is viewed in the context of a Protestant order, this makes sense (see Salvationist.ca/solemn-vows). Throughout the history of the Church, vows of poverty have been part of the commitment for members of spiritual orders. There has been an understanding throughout the centuries that riches are a hindrance to discipleship. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God,” Jesus says (see Matthew 19:24). As a spiritual order, in which the members have been called to greater-than-average Christian commitments, it is taken for granted that all of their time, money and very mortality are no longer their own. They give all they have.

As with so much of Jesus’ teaching, this passage from Luke flies in the face of how many Christians operate today. These days, many Christians shop around until they find a church that “suits their needs,” and they compartmentalize church membership as just one small aspect of who they are and what they do. Such an attitude would have been anathema to Jesus’ earliest followers, and to The Salvation Army’s earliest soldiers.

In the model laid out in this seventh promise statement, the corps is the conduit through which soldiers serve. Soldiers come together in a corps, each of them having sacrificed all they have, literally and spiritually, and they do this for the good of their communities and for the good of the worldwide work of the Army. This promise statement makes it clear that soldiership involves action. Soldiers become actively involved in the life of their community. There is no room in this model for pew-sitters, for Sunday-only Christians or for me-first consumers. Following Jesus, reiterated and prophetically proclaimed in the Soldier’s Covenant, is a complete cost and a total sacrifice. This is the promise soldiers have made.

Rob Perry is the ministry co-ordinator at Toronto’s Corps 614.

Comments

  1. John Umasanthiram says:

    On this issue of the cost I can agree with giving up money, possession and even our lives. But I totally disagree about giving up families or to disregard. Giving up families and to disregard are very strong words in relation to family values. We need to see the Bible in today’s context. I am speaking from experience … I came from a Hindu family and converted through The Salvation Army officers in Malaysia. After conversion and later when I entered into full time ministry.. I gave up my teaching post, not interested in money making and do everything to win people for Christ. Its not easy working in a non Christian country but our lives are always at risk, but we chose to do that for God.
    But I have never given up my families eventhough they are still Hindus. I gave my house to my parents and took responsibility to make sure my younger siblings had education, place to live and jobs. Infact they respect me as a Christian and always consult me for major family decision. Infact when my brother got married, it was my mother, a hindu requested me and my wife to pray and bless the couple. Just recently, when my family open a business, they asked me to bless their business with prayers.
    Just recently, a family member said, “Eventhough I have not been listening and hurting the family, you have not given up on me. I am praying to God to forgive me and want to ask for your forgiveness. I have decided to go to church.” So from a practical point of view, if we gave up on our families…. they will not be brought closer to God. Remember we are living in testing times…. PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR FAMILIES. You may disagree to their practice and their religion but we still love and care for them.

    When you are living in a country where there are many religions and many gods for people to worship, it will take time for people to come to know Christ. The concept of giving up families has done alot damages to people coming from hindu, buddhist, etc (I can only speak from Malaysian Indians and Chinese). Dont give up families but show them the new lives which can draw them to Christ. It has taken more 25 years for my wife and me to pray for someone who is very close to us. But praise God for His intervention and answer which has strengthened our faith.

    I have been working many years in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and England. Have been working with people of different races and religion but culture plays an important part in winning people for Christ. What is practice in the west may not be applicable in Asia or the East.

    There is growth in Indonesia, people are getting converted, the halls are always filled up on Sundays because the parents as well as the children, they dont give up on each other. So if I have to rewrite the statement from “Give up”, I would write, “Love and Pray Continously for your Families”

    Look at the story of the Prodigal son, the father did not give up or forget about the son.

    It all depends on the definition of Giving up….This will not be accepted in the East and in certain cultures where the family values are very important.

    So Dont Give Your Families, but love them and pray for them.

    John Umasanthiram
    A United Kingdom Officer, serving in Indonesia.

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