With Thanksgiving upon us, we’re inundated with reminders of the first Thanksgiving: a boat full of weary Pilgrims putting together a meager first “thanksgiving” meal. While we thank God for great jobs, warm houses and sweet potato casserole, the Pilgrims were likely thanking God they survived the arduous ocean voyage! Assaulted by the harsh winter climate, disease and ocean storms, the Pilgrims sacrificed much for their religious freedom. Their example is one to remember this Thanksgiving. As fellow “pilgrims” walking the journey of faith in Christ, we can learn much about discipleship from their dedication.
Following Christ Will Offend People
Jesus warned us that discipleship would have a cost:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)
Did Jesus expect His disciples to “hate” their family? Not in a literal sense. Jesus was accentuating how great our love for God should be compared to our love for others. Our love for God should be so deep and devoted, our love for humanity pales in comparison. As we love God, we more appropriately love people. But we aren’t motivated by the approval of others, and this won’t go over well with some.
The Pilgrims knew this well. Because they disagreed with the Church of England on several major theological issues, they were persecuted. They fled England and soon after fled again to America. The Pilgrims’ faith was offensive; people didn’t like them, and some tried to have them killed. When we follow Jesus, we can expect our faith to be offensive because the gospel is offensive to those who don’t know God.
Following Christ Often Implies Suffering
In Luke 14:27, Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” That should be a little scary. Following Christ implies suffering as Christ suffered—not necessarily unto death, but certainly suffering discomfort, awkwardness and difficulty at times.
The Pilgrims knew their journey would be hard. They probably had no idea how hard it would be. But they saw their religious freedom as worth the struggle. They bore with the suffering to find peace.
When we follow Christ, we must prepare ourselves to face difficulty. Jesus warned us that following Him would not be easy (Matthew 5:11-12).
Following Christ Is Worth the Cost
Even though they were persecuted and suffered the difficulties of storm, famine and sickness, the Pilgrims gathered together to thank God for what He provided. They were so grateful for their freedom, they chose gratitude in a time of dire hardship. To the Pilgrims, following Christ was worth the cost. How many of us can say the same?
When we call ourselves “Christians,” we’re saying we are disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple is to regularly sit under the leadership of a teacher, learning from Him and following His example. We need to ask ourselves this Thanksgiving if we are actually following Jesus on a daily basis. Do we see Jesus as worth the cost of our comfort?
The Pilgrims may be far removed from the culture of today, but they set a great example for us in these modern times. As we thank God for His work in our lives, let us renew our dedication to following Him—no matter what the cost.