Christianity is not for wimps. When I taught high school students I often introduced the year with this phrase. What I was trying to impress upon the students was that while God loved them, it was not to mean that nothing is required of us. Too often I found that while they believed in God, they never had thought much about what this belief in God may mean. What I mean to say is, I was not sure how they were really living differently as those who believe in God, from those who had no faith at all. The point was that to live as a Christian was hard.
Jesus makes this point dramatically in the gospel. There is a cost to being a Christian. It will not be all easy and wonderful because God loves us. In fact, there will be moments where we might wonder why we even dedicated our lives to Jesus in the first place. People will tell us we are wrong, they will hate us for reminding them, in our lives and in our words, there is a standard that God sets for us, and yes, some things are wrong and some things are sin. The cost is high.
But the cost is not high because God wishes us to suffer. No, the cost is high because God knows what it is that we can become. God made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows deeply what it means for us to be our fullest, deepest and best self. And God will lead us there if we choose to follow.
But the cost is high. It means feeding the poor, visiting the sick, striving for ever greater generosity, making room in our hearts and lives for that prayerful relationship to which we are called. It means turning our back on our own sinfulness, and as gently and lovingly as possible to offer an example and witness to others. And it means, even when we are attentive to God and living the life of the gospel, sometimes people will get mad. Very mad.