Written by Dr. Derek Cooper
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:00
“That’s too much to ask,” an older Christian said to me recently during our conversation about Jesus’ weighty call of discipleship upon the believer’s life.
“That’s not what Christianity is about,” he continued. “I go to church every Sunday, I’m not involved in any great sin, and I try to do what’s best for my family. Jesus came to take away my sin, but he did not come to make me poor and homeless.”
The conversation above represents one of many I have had over the years with Christians. In short, everyone loves talking about Jesus. But discipleship is another matter. Isn’t discipleship only for the really radical, committed Christians?
The theme of discipleship as a calling for all Christians looms large in the New Testament, especially in the teachings of Jesus. It is a theme that is peppered heavily throughout his parables and stories from beginning to end. One of the first places we see this theme materialize is during the calling of Jesus’ twelve disciples. What I have always appreciated about this passage is its unadorned description of what discipleship entails, which, in Mark’s version of the story of Jesus, is simply two things: (1) being with Jesus and (2) being sent out by Jesus. As Mark explains:
Jesus now went up to the mountain and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be with him and to be sent out to proclaim the message (Mark 3:13-14).
Though austere and artlessly simple, a casual reading of the Gospels demonstrates that this definition of discipleship expects more than it indicates. As is well known, Jesus commands his disciples to expect persecution, rejection from the world, and even death – spiritual death most certainly, but also potentially physical death.
In fact, when all of the potential – yet ultimately failed – stories of discipleship in the Gospels are investigated, an obvious theme appears: When discipleship fails, it is either because (a) a person refuses to be with Jesus or because (b) a person refuses to be sent out by Jesus.
By contrast, we can explain the meaning of discipleship in more positive terms. Discipleship occurs when (a) a person accepts Jesus’ call to be with him and when (b) a person accepts Jesus’ command to be sent out by him. It really is that simple.
Discipleship is about being pastored by Jesus and about being sent by Jesus.
Does this describe your relationship with Jesus?
Dr. Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD MDiv program and co-directs the DMin program. His most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Manton-Thought-Puritan-History/dp/1596382139/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319153564&sr=8-1#_. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.