Being a disciple of Jesus in our current world is a daunting prospect. Of course, we don’t usually suffer as the original disciples did, suffer for their faith in what might have seemed an unbelievable idea, the resurrection. No, we are more sophisticated in our world. But have we really progressed so far?
Many earnest believers spend time in prayer and Bible reading. Much less time is ever spent in trying to bring someone else the Good News. Why? We are often ashamed of our faith. We don’t want to “bother” others. We think that somebody else could do it better.
It is easy to “pass the buck” to those we think are smarter than us. But intelligence does not have much to do with earnest discipleship. Earnest discipleship by ordinary people is what is needed. It is what is missing in our world.
There was a time when I was embarrassed to speak of my adherence to the message of Jesus, the central place he holds in my life. I was young and immature. And ashamed of all this talk about “sin” when I had been reared to be a good little girl. I had sought always to do the “right thing,” the thing that my family required of me. If I had sinned, I had fallen short not only of God but also of my lineage. I didn’t want to consider that there might be things in my young life that I needed to take to God and receive forgiveness.
Many of us are like this. We often carry this youthful error into adult life and maturity. We are uncomfortable talking about our shortcomings because, despite Jesus’ reassurances, we still hold the idea of a punitive God. We hesitate to discuss our faith that has been so private, practiced in congregations in a church where we don’t have to say anything, just listen to the sermon. And sit quietly.
We need to change. We need to witness in brotherly love to our fellow men and women, helping others to grow spiritually, the essence of being a disciple of Jesus. The best messages I have ever heard in church and Sunday school came when my friends and even strangers spoke from the heart, intimately. They might tell of their own failings, They might share an intimate moment when they talk of regrets. They might be a more powerful witness to these failings. This is discipleship at its best.
The Apostle Paul heard from the Lord that His strength was made perfect in weakness. Yes! God could reach him there, in weakness, when Paul recognized that he was a human being, a frail human being, though he traveled the Mediterranean preaching the new Gospel. I like to think that Paul underscored this assertion about strength and weakness upon noticing the way in which he was best received. Surely his experience can inform our own. If Paul did not hesitate to share his faith when he was frail and weak, suffering from a “thorn in the flesh,” why do we in today’s world hesitate? I think Paul had found a potent form of discipleship when he discovered that he was best received when he shared human frailty.
This is the Answer for me: human frailty turned to strength. I wish that I had known when I was young that I didn’t have to keep the facade of a good little girl before my God. I wish I had not been embarrassed to witness for Jesus. But these thoughts can be remedied with a life turned around, in faith, in maturity. Discipleship does not, in the long run, ask very much of us at all, just a little willingness to speak out even though, especially at first, we might be uncomfortable sharing so much from our interior.
Discipleship for the believer is the next rung on a metaphorical ladder back to God. We reach Him when we climb the rungs. If we stay stuck on one rung, however high it is, we eventually become tired and lose our footing, falling back to the earth.
We are the best modern-day disciples when we don’t let our reticence cover up our faith.
Speak up. Jesus wants us.
by Celia Hales, Contributing Writer