Facebook: A Conversation on Discipleship

Here’s a Facebook conversation from the weekend:

Jeff: On Luke 14:25 “…whereas modern churchmanship tries to make membership attractive to the great number, Jesus was here moving away from the crowd…. [T]o be a disciple is to share in that style of life of which the cross is the culmination.” J Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 38

Any thoughts on that?

Charles: Yes, but a disciple for the larger community…which contradicts that

Jeff: I just came across this article (YW tweet) where Rob Bell partially speaks to this. Maybe this is similar to what you meant by the larger community, Charles (Red, AIDS…). Maybe not. http://www.youthworker.com/resources/ministry/11609276/

Jeff: Earlier tonight I read in Peace on Earth (Grassi) on Luke 12:51-52, “His message is not that of external complacency that avoids conflict, dissension, and disagreement. The Word of God in the prophets tended to polarize people…. Likewise, followers of Jesus who stand up for their values of true peace resulting from nonviolent but positive action will meet with strong opposition…

As a prophet, Jesus had to go to the capital city with his message about good news for the poor as a priority. Yet he knew this meant risking his life” (p. 123).

I’d like to change the last sentence to something like “And he knew this meant offering up his life, which was his ultimate mission.” But my desire to edit probably detracts from the main point.

What am I willing to give of my life for the work described in Jesus’ mission statement (Luke 4:18-21) — deliver “good news” to the poor (economichumanrights.org [+ micahchallenge.us]), release captives (amnesty.org), recover sight (doctorswithoutborders.org [+ physiciansforpeace.org]), free the oppressed (ijm.org & cpt.org), and proclaim jubilee/cancel debts (data.org)?

Brad: Christ attracted the multitudes during His lifetime like moths to a Light. His Words, wondrous works and good deeds to society’s outcasts caught their attention (in Scripture, much of Christ’s life is devoted to serving and healing vs. “preaching”). However, even His immediate disciples misconstrued Christ’s mission or “agenda” as a temporal movement – and one may extract that many of the more-removed multitudes did the same. When the Light of Christ was hung on the cross, many of the multitudes fled to the shadows. And only then did the faithful disciples begin to understand what Christ’s message was all about.

Bonhoeffer observes in “Cost of Discipleship”:

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. … There is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” 64

“It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause of conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity… We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering.” 98

Jeff: Thanks, Brad.

Though less regarded as a classic than Cost of Disc, Rob Bell’s tweets (@realrobbell) from last week are related. The connection is a comment by Richard Rohr that we tend to worship the way of Jesus rather than follow/live his way.

“A bit of history: the word evangelical comes from the Roman Empire propaganda machine- it was an announcement proclaiming Caesar is Lord…”

“The first Christians took the phrase and tweaked it, saying ‘Jesus is Lord.’ That, of course, could get you killed. No one challenges Caesar.”

“To confess Jesus is Lord was to insist that peace does not come to earth through coercive violence but through sacrificial love…”

“That is still the question, is it not? Whose way? Jesus or Caesar? Power and might and domination – or bloody, thirsty, hanging on a cross?”

Yes, the cost of discipleship, indeed. Good summary phrase.

(these themes are also covered in Jesus Wants to Save Christians & Jesus for President; are they addressed in my life?)

Brad: Rohr succinctly addresses the issue: “we tend to worship the way of Jesus rather than follow/live his way.” Thanks for sharing.

The etymology of “evangelical” is also insightful. The mechanism for worldly power is wielded through coercion, manipulation (incl. propaganda) and intimidation. People rarely reach high levels of influence because of their virtue.

On the cross, Christ stood out in sharp relief to worldly power which tried to squelch the truth of His love and grace as brutally as possible.

Jeff: Long live Resurrection!

Brad: The “foolish” Resurrection! (In the eyes of the world).

In “Life Together”, Bonhoeffer presents a simple guide to see if one’s Spiritual walk is solid while in the world:

“Furthermore, [the unchristian environment] is the place where we find out whether the Christian’s meditation has led him into the unreal, from which he awakens in terror when he returns to the workaday world, or whether it has led him into a real contact with God, from which he emerges strengthened and purified. Has it transported him for a moment into a spiritual ecstasy that vanishes when everyday life returns, or has it lodged the Word of God so securely and deeply in his heart that it holds and fortifies him, impelling him to active love, to obedience, to good works? Only the day can decide.” 92

Jeff: Great point. I was talking with someone about that struggle this week, but we didn’t have those words or clarity. I’ll pass it on. That book is on my list to read. Got to get to it.

Brad: It’s a gem not only for it’s brevity but it’s message for confessing Christians in the modern/post-modern world. DB wrote it under the duress of Nazism as a teacher at an underground seminary. By this time National Socialism had long since infiltrated the state Lutheran “church” – DB saw first hand the abuse of power and coercive violence. Much like Rohr’s description of Rome.

He emphases that every authentic Christian has chosen to respond to Christ’s call before they enter a fellowship of followers. This makes Christianity (The Way) distinct from an association/club of people with a common goal.

While human love desires human community and is direct, a Christian reaches out to others through Christian/spiritual love which is mediated through Christ. In turn, we see/love others as Christ sees/loves them not through the filters of our imperfect eyes and prejudices. Christ reconciles all that respond to Him!

When Christ “stands between me and others”, the disciplining of other people is through Christ, not person to person. Direct personal influence can easily slip into coercion, or be an impure influence in another’s life. Prayer to Christ, instead is the most profound and direct way to reach one another. It’s influence is greatest and gentlest.

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