There is a cost. That’s it, plain and simple. This thing of following Jesus must come at a cost. If it doesn’t, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s probably not following Jesus. I don’t think what Jesus is saying here is that following him will always mean your family is going to get ripped apart- not at all. I think he’s saying “that’s the kind of thing that can happen, when you step into this kind of kingdom work”. You see, what it comes down to is that this whole thing is about the opening up of, the building of, and the expanding of the Kingdom of God on earth, and this Kingdom of God stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms of this world (meaning, among other things, that is not some imperialistic domination as it has been so perverted in church history). If we are going to give ourselves to something that stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms of the world in which we live, then we must expect this kingdom of God to come at a cost. That is, there will be things of this world of which we will have to let go.
Jesus is not telling us to go and sever ties with our families. He’s merely revealing to us that if we are to truly give ourselves to partnering with him in the work he set out to do in chapter four of bringing good news to the poor, releasing the captives, giving sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free, then we must count the cost. Standing for, advocating for and defending those living on the margins and in the shadows will cost us something. It means that we may take a stand on an issue that isn’t popular in our circle of friends and family. It means we may have fundamental disagreements with people we care about and love deeply. It means we may begin to realign how we spend our time, money, and energy.
The Kingdom of God is beautiful, glorious, and full of grace, but, as it stands in opposition to the systems of this world, the work of expanding it does cost us something. Jesus calls us to count the cost. Be ready. But also watch: the more we step into the work of God’s Kingdom on earth, the more beautiful the world becomes.