By Lisa Huddleston
“The king answered Araunah, ‘No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing’” (2 Samuel 24:24).
There was a time when choosing to become a member of the early church could cost you everything. Men and women knew that choosing Christ meant that they may lose everything else—even their lives and the lives of their families could be part of the price they would pay. They faced torture, persecution, and isolation. Yet, they deemed it worth the cost.
Even later, the cost of being a disciple of Christ could be high. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” For Bonhoeffer this call was fulfilled literally as he took a stand for Christ against Hitler and Nazi Germany and faced death by firing squad in a German prison. But even the 1940s seem a distant memory to us today, almost irrelevant in our comfort and assumed freedom. We marvel at the courage of those who faced the ultimate test, but fail to connect it with what we know about church membership.
Yet today in many parts of this world, there are people who still face the terrible price of choosing to align their names with the body of Christ. Joining a church costs them their jobs, their families, and unbelievably to us, their lives. When they choose to go public by putting their name on a church roll, they become marked men and women. Yet, the cost is still worth it to them and amazingly churches in these dangerous areas of the world are growing!
Here and now, I often feel like King David did when Araunah offered to provide him with the place, the oxen, and the wood for his sacrifice to the Lord. Every week, or at least those weeks that I don’t have anything better to do, I show up for worship. The sanctuary has been decorated and cleaned. The air conditioner is running. The music has been rehearsed, the Sunday school lessons prepared, and the sermon written. All I have to do is walk in the door and sit down in my cushioned pew. Whew! What a sacrifice. And amazingly, sometimes I act as though it really is. I complain that the songs weren’t to my liking or that the lesson was shallow. I gripe over the temperature or the length of the service. I feel that I’ve paid quite a price by giving my whole Sunday to Jesus and go away feeling justified. Yet, I have offered burnt offerings that cost me absolutely nothing! And I am ashamed.
What is the cost of being a member in the body of Christ today? What does God bid me to come and do in his church? I know it has to be much more than I am doing. Has he gifted me to serve others in a special way? Is there a class that I need to teach? Is there a committee on which I need to work? Is there a place for me that is going empty week after week because I don’t think it’s worth the cost?
Forgive me, Lord, for counting your church as unworthy of any cost to me. I know that grace and church membership are free, but I also know that they came at a very high cost to you. Help me to offer sacrifices that are pleasing and worthy, Lord. Sacrifices that actually cost me something—some discomfort, some time, some money, some dying to my selfishness—something! I know that it is worth everything to be counted as a meaningful member of your body. Here I am, Lord. Use me.