Don’t reduce discipleship to a dry concept stuffed tight with information that withers unused on the back shelves of our lives.
There is life to be lived well in the reality of being a disciple. God wants to teach and train us how to live and love with joy and authenticity.
Discipleship is relational.
You see, here’s the plain, hard truth…we never outgrow our need to keep learning to love. And this is the heart of discipleship nestled into the divine lap of relationship.
Where there is life to be lived and people to be loved, discipleship has the power to change lives and invite others along for the ride.
As long as we struggle to love God and love others, as long as we hold onto the voracious hunger for significance gained through self-striving–we need discipleship.
Evening settles as men gather around a table for dinner. They do not yet know these are last moments carved out of time to have one final lesson with the Master.
When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:3
It is a time of sharing love and enjoying time together—this Jesus kind of love sticks to the end. It doesn’t skitter away when the hard hours arrive, for God’s love doesn’t end and never fails.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God… John 13:3
Secure in his identity and purpose, Jesus holds the power and authority of God in his hands. Anything He could need or want is at his disposal. So what he does next is radical and completely unexpected.
Discipleship should never be boring and expected.
He “rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5
In our make-it or break-it world, a basin of dirty wash water and a gritty towel stand stark in contrast against the “all things” Jesus holds in his hands. Willingly he places himself in the position of servant, the one with the most menial of tasks–to wash the feet filthy with the dust of the road and the sludge of life.
Jesus gets up from the table, leaving the comfort of a good meal as he purposefully lowers his position.
Discipleship is intentional.
Active and involved, discipleship doesn’t shy away from the mess and the sin.
Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. John 13:12-15
Washing filth from feet, these are the actions of God as he demonstrates one last lesson on the wonder of love. Example becomes the tool–learning in the living, actions bring words to life and we will never be the same.
Knowing the moment of his betrayal by one of his own is set in motion, still Jesus washes feet that walk across the heartache and trouble of this world gaping wide with sin.
Discipleship serves with humility.
The example, the position and orientation from which Christ gives his last instructions cannot be separated from the lesson about loving God and others.
- When it comes to discipling, we cannot teach from a removed, lofty position, with an I’ve already got this attitude.
- We get up from the table and get down on the floor. We must be in the midst of living out the lessons—showing by example that comes alongside rather than stands over.
- There is no preaching in this moment. Isn’t it easy to preach and teach and lecture on what we know, pointing out what they should do? We must resist pushing standards down on people, setting rules and enforcing consequences. Our broken world works like this, sometimes even in the church.
- When we live the example, there is an authenticity that doesn’t come from being the experienced one or the expert. It is the influence of sharing and practicing what we’ve learned right in the work and mess of life.
What we do is far more powerful than what we say.
We cannot teach God’s children from a position of serve me or an attitude of laziness. We can’t disciple from the stance of wearing success and experience like a badge of authority and honor.
Jesus teaches his most powerful lesson from a position of extreme humility and so should we.