Friday, February 4, 2011

Are we disciples? Or just Christians?

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? I mean really and truly a disciple in the fullest sense of the word. And whatever it means, are we really living it? Are we disciples? Or just Christians? It seems to me that there is an awakening in our time, perhaps especially among young people, in regard to the true meaning of discipleship. Many are sensing that modern Christianity isn’t the same as discipleship, that our “religion” does not really measure up to the demands and model of Jesus, that we have watered down Christianity so that it is safe, comfortable, easy, and undemanding. The popularity of such books as Irresistible Revolution and Radical  give testimony to this sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo of a Christianity that manifests itself in going to church and living clean lives even while we indulge in consumerism and display general apathy toward the oppressed and the poor.

To be a disciple must mean more than merely believing in certain teachings and going to church and being a good person. A disciple is one who not only follows the teachings of their teacher, but models their life after their teacher. If we want to know if we are truly disciples of Jesus, we must look at how Jesus lived. For example, once he devoted himself to his ministry he left everything, giving himself totally to his mission. Did he ask a similar thing of his disciples? Luke 9.57-58 seems to suggest it. Yet, we counter, Jesus does not ask every disciple to literally sell all their possessions, for we would all be destitute and homeless. And in Acts we learn that, in fact, selling all your possessions was not expected of everyone. On the other hand, Jesus does say that every disciple must renounce or give up all of their possessions (Lk 14.25-33). What does that mean? In the same breath, Jesus had urged all prospective disciples to “count the cost” of being a disciple of his, so there must be a cost that is so great that it demands serious consideration before one “buys in.” That cost is everything (vs.33). It’s your possessions, your time, your resources, your talents, your loved ones, your desires, your allegiances, your priorities, your very life—everything! Can we really say we are even close to giving up everything to follow Jesus?

It seems like whenever Jesus laid out the cost of discipleship in specific terms, people made excuses and left (compare Lk 9.57-62; John 6.41-66). It wasn’t that his demands were difficult to understand, just difficult to accept (cf. John 6.60). He asked too much. I wonder if we are asking as much of ourselves today?

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