The Meaning of Discipleship

     In church work, we throw around the word “discipleship” as if everyone understands the meaning of the word. What does it truly mean to be a discipulus (from the Latin meaning a learner or follower)? If grace is a gift from God, then why must we surrender our lives to Jesus? I know that we have simple answers to these questions, but I want to take a step back and re-examine our responses. I did not grow into the deep riches of my faith until I committed to taking a closer look at my relationship with faith, God, and what it meant for me to change my entire perception of being a follower of Christ.

     I must admit that my earliest understandings of faith and the requirement for being a disciple contained a very emotional decision to turn my life over to the care of God. I heard phrases like, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?” While I answered yes, I felt perplexed. How could I know a first-century Palestinian Jew? This way of thinking did not make sense to me, but I closed my mouth and resigned myself to be a hypocrite because I could not force myself to know the man who walked the earth over two-thousand years ago. So, I felt like a fake disciple who wanted so badly to be the real thing.

     I found an answer to my issues in my mid-forties. I remember hearing about the interpretation of a single Greek word “pistus” (faith in/of) and how that might help in the understanding of a relationship with Jesus. Interpreted one way, faith in assumes that one must believe in the first-century Palestinian Jew, and him alone to become a true disciple. Another idea caught my attention because it made more sense to me. Having the faith of Christ means deciding to follow the teachings of this man, Jesus. I found it liberating to finally answer the question, “Yes, I am a disciple of Jesus.”

    God presents us with the gift of grace. We choose to either accept the gift or reject it. I make a choice to follow, and in so doing, I surrender my self to the ways that Jesus instructed us to live with one another. I follow the two greatest commandments, love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. This new way of life requires action on my part. I must work at it every day by embracing the teachings of the one I call, Messiah. My faith illuminates a decision to turn my will over to the care of God. I follow the examples of Divine love, as shown through the actions of Christ, my savior.

     Praise God that we come to the table of the Holy One in different ways. My story is simply that, my story. Everyone encounters the sacred in their way. Through a personal understanding of what it means to be a discipulus, we find our way through the world, honoring the One who sets us on our journey. May you follow the path of Divine illumination and experience the richness of Christ along the way.

Published by joekmac

I am a pastor in the United Methodist Tradition. I am the Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Belen in the New Mexico Annual Conference. I am married to Cazandra and have two sons with hemophilia.

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