Maybe it’s not the best day to be writing about the cost of mission. This weekend we’ve been celebrating midsummer at the most idyllic campsite on Sweden’s west coast. The sun shone, the grill sizzled and there was no Wi-Fi… it was awesome! We returned to Gothenburg on Sunday morning, just in time for church by the lake followed by a swim and the obligatory ‘fika’ (coffee and cake!)… Oh boy, mission is costly!
Well yes, actually it is and the past six months have been some of the toughest for us as a family. And yet the words that kept coming to mind as I thought about this article were, ‘Yes, there’s a cost, but…’
Yes, there’s a cost, but… we need to be careful to distinguish between suffering that is directly mission-related and the everyday suffering we experience in a fallen world. Just before Christmas, my wife Andrea spent nine weeks in hospital with a serious auto-immune illness - but people get sick at home too! School has been a real struggle for our eldest two daughters this year - but school can be difficult at home too! Of course, the mission-context in which we’re facing these situations is not insignificant. Illness far from home and family has been particularly challenging. And for our girls, adapting to a new culture, language and school system has been unsettling without their previous school and church friends, their youth group and all of the other Christian activities that we were so thankful for.
But there’s a danger that we put every difficulty into the ‘cost of mission’ category, when actually much of what we face is common, in some way, to most people.
Yes, there’s a cost, but… it’s costing others too! We write the prayer letters, our picture is on the church noticeboard and yet living for Jesus is costly wherever you are. Every time we go through our partnership list we’re reminded of those who are giving sacrificially and praying faithfully. It’s costing others too and, for many believers, it’s costing them far more! It’s too easy to become self-absorbed in our own pain which can very quickly fester into a sense of injustice and bitterness.
Yes, there’s a cost, but… isn’t following Jesus meant to cost? Jesus never said ‘If you’re prepared to renounce all that you have then you can be my disciple.’ The reason Jesus tells potential followers to ‘count the cost’ is because unless they actually renounce everything they are not his disciples (Luke 14:25-33). It’s us who have inserted the ‘prepared to’. We’ve created a two-tier service system: those for whom it will be costly to follow Jesus, who’ll have to ‘fight to win the prize’, and then those who can just be ‘carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease’. Surely following Jesus means following Jesus? By definition, that has to be through suffering… to glory!
Yes, there’s a cost, but… keep looking to Jesus, to the cross and then to the crown! Andrea and I enjoy running and so what a bonus it is to live in the city that hosts the world’s largest annual half-marathon. Living in Sweden costs a lot of money, it means enduring the dark, icy days of a Scandinavian winter. Yet come the late afternoon sunshine of a Saturday in May, as you cross the finish line and receive your medal, it’s worth it all!
How much more for us will it be worth it all, whatever the cost? So… ‘… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 12:1b-2
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