This week I am posting a series of reflections on discipleship.
‘Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.’ (1 Corinthians 4:15-17)
‘We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.’ (Hebrews 6:11, 12)
‘Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ (Hebrews 13:7, 8)
‘Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.’ (3 John 1:11)
To be a disciple is to be a learner, one who learns from someone else. But this learning is not academic. It is not about learning information, from a book – even if that book is the Bible. It is about practical learning, learning to live in a particular way. We learn by being shown how to do something, by someone who has learnt to do the thing they are passing on to us. If you want to learn how to service a car engine, you get a mechanic to show you what to do, then to do it with you, and then to watch you do it, until you can do it alone. That’s the kind of learning discipleship is.
When we first meet God, however dramatic that encounter might be, our lives aren’t magically made godly in an instant. We need to learn to live in the fullness of life Jesus came to give us. God’s ways are different from the ways of the world we live in, in every part of life. So how are we to live now we know Jesus?
God does not want us to have a relationship with him that behaves as if we were the only person in the world, always ‘re-inventing the wheel’ on our own. The New Testament describes discipleship as imitation, learning from other members of our extended family of faith, past and present.
The way to follow Jesus is to become a disciple of someone who has been following Jesus and whose life demonstrates that they have learnt something that you want to learn.
Of course, we are called to make disciples as well as be disciples. That means that other people will want to learn life from us, in those areas where we know a greater security than they do. But this requires of us that we live our lives open to others, so that they can see what God has done in our lives.
So, whose life do you want to learn from? And, who wants the life you already have?