Love. Sometimes I wonder if I really comprehend the meaning, the magnitude and the implications of that word. We have romanticized Paul’s poetic description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 that it no longer seems to pierce our conscience. I have seen the attributes of love on so many greeting cards (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud) that I have grown almost indifferent to the reality of those attributes. Love. The Bible says that love is the mark of the true disciple of Christ. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35).
It seems that every time the Bible speaks about the Cross as the ultimate expression of love, it always couples the word love with two other dreadful ideas: sacrifice and giving:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [ John 3:16]
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” [1 John 4:10]
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” [John 15:13]
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]
THE MARK OF A DISCIPLE
It is way much easier to study the doctrines of grace and examine my salvation on standards other than the love described in the verses above. Questions such as; Do I believe the Gospel? Did I have a conversion experience? Do I rightly affirm the trinity? Seem to be so much easier to “amen” to. I am quick to judge the authenticity of other people’s faith by how clearly they can articulate what they believe. I am not satisfied by their love for fellow believers or neighbors. And I am persuaded that this reveals a similar problem in me. I am afraid to evaluate my own relationship with Christ based on my love for others. I seem content in finding my assurance only in believing the “right” things about God. What a sad reality.
THE MAKER OF A DISCIPLE
In the great commission, I am quick to obey the “preaching” part of the commission, but I am hesitant to obey the “make disciples” part of the same commission. Discipleship is a great responsibility. I don’t know about you (who find it to be a delightful privilege), but for me it is. One minute, I am listening to a sermon or reading a book on discipleship and I get so charged up that I am ready to walk with the next guy I find on the street. The next minute, I realize that I am just not that into it. People are a great responsibility. Furthermore, I am too messed up to even consider myself worthy of walking with, guiding and pointing another man to Christ. I have my own problems to take care of. I am not even sure if I am being discipled myself, the last thing I should be thinking of is discipling another man. I cannot lead another man to where I have never been.
Yet, when I look at the Bible, I do not see Jesus telling his disciples to go get discipled, now that He (their original discipler) is going away. The only command that is recorded is the command to go and “make disciples”. The only explicit command concerning discipleship is the command to go make new converts, walk with them as they grow in the faith, encourage them, exhort them, edify them and like Paul, keep reminding them to follow me as I follow Christ. Keep reminding them to follow me as I follow Christ. Keep reminding them to follow me as I follow Christ.
THE MODEL OF A DISCIPLER
Wait. The Bible doesn’t say anything about me following any human discipler. My disciples are not to follow me as I follow the guy who is discipling me. My qualification to disciple other men is not that I am being discipled by another man. My qualification is only this: that I am a disciple of Christ! Does this mean that I do not need another man to disciple me? No. It means that having another man disciple me is a privilege, not a right. Jesus is sufficient. He is my model, my focus, my goal. He wants me to think of Him, not another man, whenever I think of myself as a disciple.
Don’t get me wrong. It is a privilege to be discipled. It is a blessing to have another human being who has decided to obey Christ’s command through you. A man who is committed to pointing out the manholes that lie ahead in your path towards Christ-likeness. I find it an even more special privilege to be under the guidance and leadership of a man who knows where the pitfalls are, not necessarily because he has read more books on those pits, but because he has fallen into them before. He has fallen into those pits and experienced the redeeming, correcting, restoring grace of Jesus Christ.
THE PRAYER OF A DISCIPLER
Being discipled by another man is a privilege, a rare blessing. But it is not a condition or precursor to disciple (or not disciple) other men. Yes, I am a broken man. Yes, I am a mess of the faith that I so eloquently claim to possess. I am not as holy as I’d wish to be, I struggle with prayer and I seldom study the unadulterated Word of God. Yes, I struggle with sins that are graver than those of my “potential” disciples. Yet, these are not the qualifications (or disqualifications) for reaching out, loving others and sacrificing my comforts and personal preferences for others. My qualification is Christ. It is His perfection that I am to point others towards, not mine. It is His faithfulness, His holiness, His prayer-life and His goodness that I am to disciple others towards. I am to preach His hold on me, not my hold on Him.
Who knows, I may just end up experiencing the much needed spiritual nourishment from the crumbs that will fall at the foot of the table of the King as I lead others to partake of the Bread and drink of the Cup that is Jesus Christ.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19-20]
Lord, help me believe the promise at the end of this passage by obeying the command at the beginning of this passage.
For the fame of Your Name,