The other day I was having coffee with Dallas WIllard -- no, wait -- that wasn't me, it was someone else. But I certainly wish it was me.
Dr. Willard is a gift to the church. For decades his work has centered on the deep joy of becoming an apprentice to the Master of Life, Jesus. Today's parable-post is drawn from his excellent article, "How to Become a Disciple," which originally appeared in The Christian Century, but was adapted from his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God:
Jesus gave us two parables to illustrate the condition of soul that leads to becoming a disciple. Actually it turns out to be a condition that we all very well understand from our own experiences. The parables also illustrate what he meant by saying that the "scribe" of the kingdom teaches from the ordinary things of life "things both old and new."
First, he said, "The kingdom of the heavens is like where something of extreme value is concealed in a field. Someone discovers it, and quickly covers it up again. Overflowing with joyous excitement he pulls together everything he has, sells it all and buys the field" (Matt. 13:44).
Second, he said, "What the kingdom of the heavens is like is illustrated by a businessman who is on the lookout for beautiful pearls. He finds an incredible value in one pearl. So he sells everything else he owns and buys it" (13:45-46).
These little stories perfectly express the condition of soul in one who chooses life in the kingdom with Jesus. The sense of the goodness to be achieved by that choice, of the opportunity that may be missed, the love for the value discovered, the excitement and joy over it all, is exactly the same as it was for those who were drawn to Jesus in those long-ago days when he first walked among us. It is also the condition of soul from which discipleship can be effectively chosen today.
Only with such images before us can we correctly assess the famous "cost of discipleship" of which so much is made. Do you think the businessman who found the pearl was sweating over its cost? An obviously ridiculous question! What about the one who found the treasure in the field -- perhaps crude oil or gold? No. Of course not. The only thing these people were sweating about was whether they would "get the deal." Now that is the soul of the disciple.
No one goes sadly, reluctantly into discipleship with Jesus. As he said, "No one who looks back after putting his hand to the plough is suited to the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). No one goes in bemoaning the cost. They understand the opportunity. And one of the things that has most obstructed the path of discipleship in our Christian culture today is this idea that it will be a terribly difficult thing that will certainly ruin your life.
This article appeared in The Christian Century, April 22-29, 1998, pp. 430-439. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation, used by permission.