Salvation is grace. Discipleship is work. Salvation is free. Discipleship will inevitably cost you something. Salvation is received only through what Christ has done on the cross. Discipleship is an ongoing experience that requires significant effort on our part.
In a recent conversation I heard a young man say that he wishes it wasn’t so difficult. I agree, and don’t agree. Sure on my bad days I wish that the lifestyle of following Jesus could be a little easier; but when I consider the bigger picture, I realize that this is reality. Life is difficult. You can’t live without experiencing the complications and inconveniences of human existence. Sin has guaranteed this for us. Discipleship, because of both the inherent challenges it contains and the necessary maturation that it requires, only adds to the already inevitable difficulties of our lives.
Loving my neighbor is hard work. Maintaining discipline in my time with God is often difficult. Living in Christ-centered community has, as we all know, many complications of its own. Not to mention…. love your enemies, feed the hungry, free the oppressed, clothe the naked, forgive your brother 77 times, give sacrificially of your resources… etc. Discipleship is clearly not an easy life and, though there are “warm and fuzzy” times, it isn’t only that and to limit it as such is extremely dangerous.
So when we’re challenging young people to live the life of Jesus, remember that this challenge is being added to the already complex journey of adolescence in the western world. As if human development wasn’t complicated enough, we’ve already extended the period of time before a person becomes an adult and now we’re adding the high calling of Christ-like living to boot. Yet Jesus didn’t shy away from challenging people and neither should we. After all, becoming an adult is not going to happen without challenges anyway.