Discipleship: The Walk

georgeTeachingThis is the fifth and final in series on discipleship in the church.  See parts One, Two, Three, and Four.

In previous posts I pointed out that most of the discipleship training I had in churches taught me to be a good church member, but not necessarily a transformed person; I learned to talk about a lot of things that seemed important to people in the church, but rarely about the one thing—the kingdom of God–that Jesus himself actually talked about all the time.

Given that, it’s not surprising that the discipleship courses rarely—I’m being kind here—taught me to do the things that Jesus actually told his followers to do. 

When I attended a two-week workshop on guitar-building, the luthier, George Morris, led us through each step of the process. He would first tell us what to do, then he would show us how to do it on a guitar he was building along with us.

Then we would start to do it on our own guitars. He’d walk around to each of our workbenches (there were five of us), explaining the process again, correcting technique, encouraging us when we were doing it right. He rarely touched our guitars, however; everything that was done, we did it. He’d assist us, but that’s it.

When we made mistakes, he’d tell us what to do to fix them, but he never did anything for us. The end result was that we each had a guitar built the George Morris way, but built entirely by us.

We did it by doing exactly what the master luthier told us to do.

It’s a simple concept.  A disciple actually does what the teacher says to do.

In Matthew 5:44, Jesus instructed us to love our enemies and pray for them. We have prayer classes in our churches; do they teach us to pray for our enemies?  Do they instruct us, “Write down all the people or people groups who hate you.  For the next week, pray for them by name; write your prayers in your prayer journal.  Next week we are each going to give a report on what happened”?

And where are the classes that train us to love the people we hate or who hate us?  It doesn’t come naturally, so I imagine some instruction would be helpful if not necessary.

In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus instructs us to forgive one another, and that the stakes for unforgiveness are incredibly high. So where are the classes on forgiveness, the programs that train us to do something that is very hard to do?

Duke Divinity School has a Center for Reconciliation where they teach people to forgive and be reconciled with one another. It seems to me that that every Christian church ought to be a Center for Reconciliation where we teach people how to forgive and be reconciled with one another.

What else did Jesus tell us to do?

  • Be at peace with one another
  • Have compassion, not contempt, on the poor
  • Make peace with your accusers
  • Turn the other cheek
  • Put the sword away
  • Deny ourselves
  • Take up our crosses
  • Don’t worship until we’ve reconciled with anyone we’ve hurt or been hurt by

Where are the discipleship programs that teach us to do these things?

Jesus said these things, and he meant them. 

And they are pretty straightforward.  Seriously, “Love your enemies” is rather clear, isn’t it?  You can word-study the thing if you want, but there are only three words in the whole phrase—four in the Greek, which, translated literally, would be “You love your enemies.”  Which removes whatever ambiguity one might find there. 

“Who, me?”  “Yes, you.  You love the ones you hate or who hate you. You pray for those who persecute you.”  Pretty clear.  And he meant it.

So let me ask you: how many times since 9-11 have you prayed for a Muslim terrorist? And not that they would eat a drone missile. I mean actually prayed for a Muslim terrorist in a loving way? Did you do it at all? Do we honestly think that Jesus didn’t mean it when he said it? Or that he didn’t mean it enough that he actually expected us to do it?

No, I’m pretty sure he meant it, which means you don’t really get to call yourself a follower of Jesus if you aren’t at least trying to not only stop hating but to start loving the ones you have been hating. 

Or if you aren’t seriously seeking to forgive those who have hurt you, or seriously seeking reconciliation with those you have hurt. 

What does it mean to call yourself a follower of Jesus if you aren’t actually following him—actually doing the stuff that he told you to do?

Ah, but there’s the rub.  People don’t much call themselves “Followers of Jesus”, they call themselves (and each other) “Christians”, which has come to mean a person who has accepted as factually true certain data about Jesus—his divine sonship, his virgin birth, his sacrificial death, and his bodily resurrection.  Say yes to all that stuff, pray a prayer, and you’re a Christian.

And there’s nothing else you have to do.  Including the stuff that Jesus told us to do.  That’s like extra credit, good for some jewels in your heavenly crown.  Or the really good Christians, the ones enrolled in the Christianity Honors Program.

Among the many reasons that Jesus died is that he believed what he said, and he did what he believed and he wouldn’t back down at all, even with death staring him in the face.  Therefore his followers better take what he said very seriously and actually do the things he told us to do.

Remember the WWJD thing a few years ago? What Would Jesus Do? We got these little WWJD bracelets. I think we all ought to get different bracelets, ones that say DWJS.

And instead of wondering What Would Jesus Do? we ought to simply Do. What. Jesus. Said.

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