Some Thoughts on Radical Discipleship
Posted by Dr. Larry Taylor
In Luke 14:33, Jesus is recorded as saying:
“So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple.” (ESV)
“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.” (The Message)
In my role as a healthcare chaplain, I see it every day.
- Easy believism.
- Market-driven civil religion.
- Detrick Bonhoeffer calls it “cheap grace.”
Many see salvation as a ticket for the future. I said a prayer; I have my ticket to heaven; I’m good to go.
My spouse and I have tickets to a concert next month, but having those tickets in no way affects our daily lives now. Similarly, there are many people, at least in North America, who see salvation as a ticket to go to heaven when they die – a ticket that is good for something in the future, but which has no effect on their lives in the meantime. They live their lives in exactly the same manner in which they would have had they not said that prayer.
That is not biblical salvation.
Biblically, justification and sanctification cannot be separated.
To have faith in Christ means to follow Christ.
Imagine we are in a high-rise building on business that suddenly becomes engulfed in smoke, with fire alarms blaring and fire-doors automatically closing, and someone stands up and says, “Follow me, I know the way out.” If we trust that person, we will follow her.
Trusting Jesus means we are following Jesus. Faith produces following. If I am not following, I do not have faith.
But, too often in North America, we have reduced faith to acknowledging a set of doctrines, or beliefs. As I stand over the bed of a dying person, now unresponsive with mottled limbs and agonal breathing, family members tell me, “He never went to church, but he believed in God; he lived a good life.” I do not despair for the patient’s eternal destiny – I believe God’s mercy is wide, and I pray God will speak to the now comatose person and reveal Himself to him, forgive his sins, and welcome him into everlasting life.
But for those of us who are not comatose, we need to realize that biblical salvation is not about getting a ticket so you can go to heaven when you die. It is about following Jesus now. Discipleship, spiritual formation is not an optional add-on, as if we can believe without following.
Following Jesus should radically affect my entire life. By God’s enabling grace, I seek to:
- Live by different rules.
- Pledge allegiance to King Jesus alone.
- Be a citizen of heaven, not Canada, or the USA, or anywhere else.
- Have a radically different focus – on God and others, rather than myself.
- Care for creation – environmental justice trumps profit.
- Share my resources to help those in need, rather than indulge myself.
- Turn the other cheek; be nonviolent.
- Love my enemies instead of killing or undermining them.
- Be noncoercive, and nonmanipulating.
- Be honest, genuine, authentic.
- Be willing to die.
- Be pro-life – opposed to anything that dehumanizes the other, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, capital punishment, violence, war, police brutality, lethal self-defense, and abortion as birth control.
- Identify and stand with the homeless, the addicted, the poor, the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the elderly, the sick, the frail, the damaged, and the marginalized.
- Welcome the stranger, the immigrant, regardless of documentation or quota.
- Wash feet. My job is to love.
I’m not very good at it yet.
Unlike the tower builder or the military brass (see Luke 14:25-35), we cannot calculate the cost in advance.
If I surrender all to Christ, will He require me to give up my family? Liquidate all my assets and donate to the poor? Refuse to stand for a national flag or anthem? Refuse military service? Sacrifice my health? Radically change my career? Move to …?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But, Jesus’ point is that I must be willingto do anything, give up anything or anyone, go anywhere at God’s command.
But, how do I become willing?
First, I think, we seek God. We ask God to shine the light of the Holy Spirit into every crevice of our beings and show us what we are still holding on to. What can I not imagine giving up? Imaginatively, enter into the feeling of what it might be like to sell all you have and give to the poor, for example. God will, I think, show us what we are clinging to and help us release it (or her or him).
I often pray, “Lord, make me willing. If I don’t really mean what I just said, make me mean it.”
Still, in my own life, I find a gap between my desire to be willing to radically forsake all and follow Jesus and actually doing it. What holds me back?
Two things, primarily.
- I am a coward. If I sacrificed everything, where would that leave me?
- I find it impossible (or nearly so) to radically follow Jesus apart from a group of like-minded people who have the same desire.
The cure for fear is God’s love. Perfect love casts out fear, scripture teaches me. The more I become immersed in God’s love, the more I become aware of how deep, wide, unconditional, eternal, and radically fierce God’s love is, the less I will fear.
Experientially learning God’s love is a journey, a pilgrimage.
Isolation is a problem for me. People keep telling me to be in community. If you live down the street from the Simple Way or The Meeting House or Woodland Hills church, trot over and join. I’m sure there are radical Jesus-followers here in the Bible belt who don’t blend discipleship with nationalism, militarism, and capitalism, but, as of today, I am having trouble finding more than a few of them.
Maybe that’s enough.
About Dr. Larry TaylorRadical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter
Posted on August 25, 2018, in apologetics, Bible, bodily resurrection, Christianity, Prayer, Spirituality, Theodicy and tagged Christianity, comfort, faith, good, grace, hospitality, Jesus, joy, love, New Testament, peace, progressive, service, shalom, simple life, social justice, thoughtful, truth, USA. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.