“Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37-39
These are not comfortable words, are they? How well do they sit with you? However challenging we find them, these verses, for me, form the essence of Jesus’ call to discipleship. This is not a cosy message of self-improvement, of asking Jesus to help us with life’s difficulties and make our lives better but a demanding call to make Jesus centre and forefront of our lives.
As a church we feel God calling us again to both be authentic disciples and make authentic disciples. Jesus’ great commission calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them…..and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” Matthew 28:19-20. What then is a disciple? The original Greek is “mathetes” which means student or learner. In Jesus’ time, rabbis would have had disciples, just as Jesus and John the Baptist did. These disciples would spend most of their time with their teachers, learning from them, obeying their teachings, following their behaviour and words. Today Jesus calls us to follow him in much the same way, making time to pray and read his word and follow his teachings, with the help of the Holy Spirit. However that is not where our discipleship ends. Jesus also calls us to be disciple-makers. Not just to leave it to the professional evangelists, vicars and youth workers, but all of us! Challenging stuff!
As a church we are going to be looking afresh at what the New Testament has to teach us about discipleship. We might experiment with using different words, such as apprenticeship, which gives a fresh perspective on the growing and learning aspect of discipleship. Ultimately, though, we will need to be prepared to be challenged and changed as God speaks to us and guides us. We might need to look again at our expectations of church and even of God. Do we come with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude or a heart of gratitude for God’s love and forgiveness and a desire to serve Him? Do we think of our Christianity as an added extra, an additional hobby that’s good for our mental wellbeing or is it an everyday whole life commitment? Is God just a port of call in the bad times and forgotten in the good? We need to be able to ask ourselves and each other these searching questions and be honest about where we are.
Challenging, yes. Cosy, no. But exciting? Absolutely. Remember Jesus doesn’t expect you to have everything sorted, to come fully formed. Jesus is there to teach and guide us and, through the Holy Spirit and the gift of one another, equip us with all that we need to follow him,
“to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21