Hey guys, this blog post draws inspirations and responds to Rachel’s last blog post Why Discipleship Weirds Me Out. Feel free to read that to get some context.
We are sitting on a picnic blanket on a warm summer day. The shade from the tree shelters us as we go through our Bibles, taking turns reading verses and discussing them. For some reason, we get onto the subject of discipleship. She talks about her mentors over the years and occasionally the lack of mentors.
My experience is more of the latter as I confess to her, I’ve never had a mentor either.
The truth is that I haven’t been ‘discipled’ in the traditional sense; having an older person as a mentor or even as a friendship. I haven’t always known what discipleship looks like or how to define it.
Last week, my beloved co-blogger, Rachel, wrote about how she found discipleship weird. She defined discipleship as a ‘purposeful friendship’. I love that coin of words.
I’ve had a few of those. Those kinds of friendship that deepened unexpectedly over struggles, hugs, tears, prayers, deep conversations, jokes, general weirdness only you get and reminders of ‘I’ve-got-your-back’.
Purposeful friendship is beautiful, needed and should be valued but I don’t think that discipleship is only that. I would argue that discipleship goes deeper, and that it should go deeper than just friendship.
Discipleship emphasises intentionality instead of the free-flow rhythm of a friendship.
Discipleship requires a realisation and then commitment in encouraging each other to run the race. Commitment requires thought. Commitment requires action. Commitment requires intentionality.
Friendships can certainly be intentional and committed but friendship can also fade or grow. It can move forward or backwards in affection. Discipleship is about walking with someone towards Jesus faithfully. Discipleship applies to anyone who will listen, both in the short term and in the long-term. Friendship is the added bonus, not the point.
Discipleship calls for us to lay down our lives like Jesus laid down His life for us.
You’re right, Rachel, in that discipleship lays in the heart of the purest friendship. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13).
If we’re honest though, we rarely practice it. Our culture says the opposite. To lay yourself down for others is stupid and we should always put ourselves first. As if we can never let ourselves down.
There is a sacrifice here, to give ourselves up for our brothers and sisters around us. That includes the brothers and sister that we like and even the ones that we don’t like. Again, friendship isn’t the point. It is obedience that counts.
I cannot disciple others towards Jesus without being a disciple of Jesus myself.
I cannot commit with the sacrificial intentionality for others without first committing with the same sacrificial intentionality for Jesus. This is why discipleship is weird. Forget about weird for a moment. This is why discipleship is scary. Forget about re-purposing your life. You are called to give it up completely.
Now I say all of this, self-aware of my own stubbornness and hypocrisy. I don’t want to commit to others or even to Jesus at times. I want to live only for myself.
But this is our calling, to make this our identity. This is my calling, to commit and follow after the God who loves me. This is my calling, to commit to others with the same intentionality. There is no favouritism in discipleship but applies to everyone and anyone willing enough to receive.
This is what a culture of discipleship looks like, loving sacrifice.