Discipleship has been on my mind as of late. This is one of the main things that we have been discussing at my church for the past several months, and something that fortunately is always progressing. What exactly is a fully-functioning follower of Christ and how is one made?
First of all I would say that community is a big part of this. Whoever came up with this “personal decision” stuff, well you gotta give it to ’em, it sure does sound nice. The thing is that our lives in Christ are never meant to be solely “personal.” The New Testament is full of stories of believers who are intimately, even dependently, connected to their church. There always seems to be a community structure to the Christian discipleship we find in the bible. I would contest that we must strive for this as well.
To do so though, we have to understand that our faith in Christ has a huge bearing on all other avenues of our lives. I see many folks compartmentalizing their lives, as if one area never intersects with another. Sure this keeps it nice and tidy, but I say screw nice and tidy. I want something gritty, something real, something I can touch and feel and share with other people. Something that impacts not only my small little world, but that has the capacity to expand out into the world of those I come in contact with everyday. The barista that gives me coffee everyday. The server at my local pub. My friends who I love and care for.
I don’t care for people just so that that I can share in their living and moving and being. Don’t get me wrong. This is a part of it. Rejoicing in the triumphs and comforting in the failures are some of the sweetest moments in life. But I hope that my life serves as a sharpener for my friends lives. I want to challenge people forward to excellence, and I want them to challenge me. If my buddy has an opinion I think could use some tweaking I want to challenge it. I say this only because I would want the same from my friend.
Do we have this view of others who share our belief in Christ? Would we welcome a challenging word or would we claim our privacy and shrug it off?
I admit, my idealism gets the best of me at times. I have said in the past that if folks are believers, if this belief is shared among two or more, then get close because encouraging and challenging relationship is at your fingertips. Don’t loose the opportunity to be sharpened, to be honed by a fellow believer.
The more I live, the more I see that intimacy is a big hindrance to this. Do we really want every person down at the church to know our business? Of course not. We reserve that information for a select few. Think of your 3 closest friends. You have shared things with these you haven’t with anyone else.
But 3 people? Lets assume those 3 are couples, at best thats 6. I choose the number 3 because that is about how many close confidants I have. I of course have others, but the closest? We are looking at about 3. We have to expand our possibilities. I have to expand my possibilities. Think of the resources that are out there, and we relegate the bulk of our best personal development to the opinions of 3 trusted people. Now those people I am sure are great, but we also probably trust their opinions because we have deemed there opinions closer to the truth, or what’s best for us, than everyone else’s.
I fear that what we do is seek advice from people who think and feel like us, who share similar value systems, who have a life that we admire.
But what about those we know who have nothing we admire, but are great people, with a love for others, and have wisdom to give away. Let’s assume that these people share belief in Christ and for good measure are committed to discipleship. Let’s also say their political opinions are not aligned with ours. We don’t particularly like the way they run their house, or manage their finances, or raise their children.
We can’t say that the way they do these things are wrong. We can even tell you that they are just as valid as our own. Their level of happiness and contentment is even on par with ours. We know that “results” and “success” are being born from their lives.
But because of our distaste for how their family, finances, household, and political views have been formed we will never, never seek their advice or opinion on anything of substance. Think of the treasures we have yet to discover that could be lying in what, in many ways, we may deem a wasteland. They share at the foundation a reliance on Christ and an acknowledgment of the kingdom of God, meaning that a striking similarity is shared between us and them. But because of this or that, we would never ask them what we should do with our money or seek understanding of a political stance or social stance.
I think about this, and you know what I come to? Maybe our understanding of the kingdom of God and dependency on Christ is so small that we think that it only produces one kind of mindset. And this kind of mindset is unable to learn from and glean from a person whose experience and faith has shaped them in such a different way as our own. Maybe we have been the ones compartmentalizing all along. I think this kind of mental and political rivalry is a severe detriment to the unity and love of a community’s shared life in Christ.
I remember my first philosophy course in college and the sheer joy I felt in giving and receiving such a vast amount of knowledge. The fun thing was that we all disagreed with one another. There was cursing and arguing almost everyday, but we never left with a stick up our rears or with bitterness toward one another. We at least heard each other out, and found that thoughtful, intelligent, caring people came to some pretty screwed up conclusions.
That last bit was a joke if you missed it.
I pull this experience out because it is very similar to the church, the only difference is when believers are together we know that there is a shared faith in Christ and a shared longing for the Kingdom of God.
Ideally, these two facts should form the foundation of all our pursuits. Assuming this were true, what if we came to fellow believers with this, trying to share with each other how we came to view finances this way, or child rearing that way, in light of Christ and the kingdom of God. If we are so different, but are all striving to the same goal, think of the opportunity for personal and corporate development at our fingertips.
I personally feel that all this privacy can get a bit lonely at times.