I’ve been stewing over some thoughts on discipleship recently. It’s an intriguing idea. For those not familiar with the term, it is a synonym for apprenticeship – of the theological / faith / belief / way to live life variety. It sort of encompasses all of those things, in a way that overlaps. The orthodox Christian line is that we are disciples of Jesus. We also mentor / disciple each other – peer to peer or mentor to mentee.
One of the things that has struck me is the way in which our fear of the world and of ourselves forms our approach to discipleship – especially in the peer sense. When someone we know becomes a Christian, our reaction is often partly centered around the desire to help them understand what is a correct way to behave and what is not. This fails on three counts:
1) We might be wrong
2) God may have a different priority
3) It’s judgemental.
To suggest to somebody they ought to live a certain way is to run the risk of sending them off in the wrong direction. Let’s assume for arguments sake that homosexuality is not the issue it is made out to be. A new homosexual convert to Christianity may be forced to unhealthily surpress their sexuality as a consequence of other’s beliefs.
Equally, and let us for this example assume homosexual acts are indeed sinful, God may have other things in mind. Greed, anger, idolatry, hatred, prejudice – we do not know where God’s priorities lie. We can only project on to others the priorities God has for us, an equally arrogant and misguided assumption.
Finally it is judgemental. As Christians we are so often accused of violating our own standards of judgement. I think this is fair. We too readily tell others how to behave and then break those rules ourselves. Perhaps we would do better to leave the conviction, judgement and moral standards to be executed by God, rather than by one another.
In light of this I have come to the conclusion that discipleship is best done lightly. Instead of ensuring that people behave the same way as us, we should instead teach them to live in such a way that their lives are postured towards hearing the voice of the divine – be that still and small or loud and clear. Discipleship should be about enabling, not telling.
This would move us away from the need to be right, the need to change others to be like us and the need to be of higher moral status than others (let’s face it, that is where judgement comes from – the need to justify ourselves and yet know we cannot). Instead, we can love one another and spur one another on in love to be closer to God and ultimately discover what He has in store for us.