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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Distorted Cost

I am currently reading Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking, by D. Q. McInerny.  Against that background I was reviewing my journal, remembering my reaction to 1 Chronicles 21:24 (if you haven’t memorized that passage you should).
Distorted Cost
There was a significant confluence between what I was reading in Being Logical and what I see in 1 Chronicles 21:24.

The context of 1 Chronicles 21:24 is David desiring to thank the Lord for stopping the plague that was the result of David’s sin which the Lord used to discipline Israel – there is a lot more that can be said about that, but it lies beyond the scope of this post.

The plague was stopped at the threshing floor of a Jebusite by the name of Oran.  David wanted to buy the site, build an alter there, and offer a sacrifice of praise to the Lord.  Oran offered to donate the threshing floor.  David refused the offering.

The key words that David spoke were, “…I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing” (emphasis added).

There is a whole book to be written about David’s words, attitude, and heart based on that sentence.  There is much that we can learn about how as disciples of Christ we should live.  It is fair to do so.  David is held up as an example for us in the New Testament.

The section in Being Logical, stresses the need to avoid the use of evasive or euphemistic language.  Using terms that mean something else or else have not been defined well or else have been stripped of their meaning.  It was these words from the book that got my attention:

First, and obviously, it can deceive an audience. Second, and more subtly, it can have a deleterious effect on the people who use it, distorting their sense of reality. The user shapes language, but language shapes the user as well. If we consistently use language that serves to distort reality, we can eventually come to believe our own twisted rhetoric. Such is the power of language.

In our communities, we use the term “disciple” very loosely.  We speak of disciple making, without defining what that would look like in practice.  We come up with clever logos and phrases to assert and proclaim our commitment to this “disciple making”.  However, it is difficult to find out what it means to be a disciple in many of those communities.

The assumption becomes, “If I come to this community, I must be a disciple.”  So the word “disciple” has been stripped of its meaning, its New Testament context, in 1 Chronicles 21:24 terms, its cost.

Discipleship has a cost.

There are more passages than I am willing to cover in this post (search the blog for the word “disciple” for a taste), but look at Luke 14:26 – 35, as a starting point.  Christ says some hard things there.

If we continually use disciple loosely, it will have what McInerny calls a deleterious effect on the people in the community, distorting their reality.  It is one thing to distort the reality of some portion of our temporal, worldly existence.

It is of dire consequence to distort the reality of that which has bearing on the eternal.

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