Following Jesus means a shift in priorities. He becomes first so that when it comes down to either-or rather than both-and, we choose Jesus. And making that choice beautifies us in God’s eyes. The call to follow Jesus is radical, and it might very well lead us down lonely paths. A particular scribe who wanted to follow Jesus was warned that doing so might mean forgoing a comfortable home life (Matt. 8:20). Another man wanted to follow but not until his father had died. Jesus made him choose: “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (v. 22). That’s the real question, isn’t it?
Are we willing to follow his call even if it means loss and the loneliness that springs from it? If we don’t consider all this beforehand, we are likely to turn back when the going gets rough. That’s why Jesus warned would-be followers to count the cost before starting out (Luke 14:25–33). Following might cost us our career plans, our relationships, or the comforts of a mainstream middle-class life. It will most surely cost us our right to hang on to our old identity. That’s the cost we have to count, because when that old identity falls away, we are likely to crash down if we aren’t prepared for the significance of the loss and how bewildering the way forward can seem at times.