Provocative Obedience: The High Cost of Loving Jesus

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

In 1976 Pittsburgh was still a very strong blue collar, union town. My friend Howard worked at a manufacturing plant that had a very strong union. One day there was a wildcat strike. Basically that means that the union members went on strike illegally. They did so in violation of their contract. Hundreds of workers were picketing outside the plant when Howard showed up for his scheduled shift. Crossing a picket line is not something you want to do everyday. Howard was planning to cross.

His reason for crossing the picket line was simple, a wildcat strike was illegal and he was bound by Christ to keep his word and honor his contract. Howard stood before the picketers and spoke for everyone to hear. It was a small enough plant that they all knew him. It helped that he was one of the few black men who worked there. And given Howard’s penchant for telling people about Jesus, they all knew that he was a Christian. So in front of that crowd, Howard made his case. He must be true to his God and he needed to report for work.
No one was happy that he did this. His fellow union members were outraged. They were so angry that before Howard made it from the gate to the inside of the plant, his car was overturned and on fire. Management at the plant was furious because now they had an even graver situation, how to get Howard safely out of the plant and send him home. The only person who was pleased by all of this was Jesus. But then, He is really the only person who matters.

Howard got home safely. Someone from management had to drive him there, (remember the burning car) hidden on the floor of the backseat. It was the last day he ever reported for work at that plant. He lost his job and his car in one unselfish and courageous act of obedience that was motivated by a deep love for Jesus. Indeed, if we love Him, we will obey Him. But the price can be steep. Howard could have easily not shown up that day. He could have kept his mouth shut and waited for the strike to be over and report to work when things returned to normal. No one would have had a second thought about it. Everyone else would have probably commended him for exercising discretion and not making waves. Everyone that is, except Howard. He knew that sometimes there is a price to be paid for loving Jesus. It is the price that the world extracts from us when we obey commands that the world dislikes. Howard’s love for Jesus was so real and so strong, that he was willing to pay the price of obedience.

To hear much of what passes for preaching the Gospel these days you would be convinced that there is absolutely no cost to loving Jesus. We are told, “come to him and all your problems are solved, your health is restored, your checking account will overflow, your spouse will love you, your kids will respect and obey you, and your teeth will become straight and white”. Don’t get me wrong; there are abundant blessings that come from following Jesus. But there is also a price. Jesus made that pretty clear himself. I had only been a Christian for a few months when I learned that lesson in real life from Howard.

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