There comes that moment in every new parent’s life when our precious little bundle of joy turns to us and, with hands-on-hips and determination in their voice, tells us with resounding conviction, “NO!” We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We want to laugh because they look so silly trying to exercise some sort of control over what they clearly have no knowledge, experience, or wherewithal to do anything. They look comical with that stance and air of authority. We want to cry because we have come face to face with a foe with whom we will be clashing for the better part of the next twenty years. We recoil because, horror of horrors, we see ourselves!
Where did that child get to know that stance? That attitude? That prideful affront to our gentle, benevolent care and love? The answer is staring us right in the face. They got it from us! That little human is watching, taking notes, practicing, and learning to be a big human by taking their cues from us. Humbling and frightening.
It is a truth in communication that we cannot not communicate (Paul Watzlawick, Pragmatics of Human Communication; 1967). We are always communicating something, even when our mouths aren’t moving. We can’t help but communicate what we are thinking, what we believe to be true and important. We are telling the world all about ourselves, what we value, and what we think is important all the time.
A disciple is a “follower, or student” (dictionary.com) of someone or some philosophy. If there is a follower, there must be a leader – the one being followed. Jesus Christ had many people who followed Him everywhere He went. They hung on every word He said. They tried to emulate His actions and, even in some cases, tried to reproduce His miracles. He was communicating, and they were watching. They were disciples.
There was a particular group of people with whom He was more intimate. His disciples were privy to His thoughts behind His actions. He took special care to help them understand who He was and what He was about. He cared for them and tended them like a shepherd. He answered their sometimes thoughtless questions. He taught them and tried to prepare them for what was to come.
Jesus calls us to do the same in our walk as believers and followers. In the Gospel of John, chapters 8 and 13, He lays out the criteria for being a disciple of His: if you hold to His teaching and love one another. Then, in Matthew 28: 18-20, He commissions them to carry on His work and make more disciples who will, in turn, make more disciples.
If we are in Christ, being a disciple and making more disciples is our raison d’etre. It is our prime directive. If we call ourselves Christians, the world is watching us to see what our lives say about Christ. We are all disciples and disciple makers, and we are constantly communicating what we believe about our Savior and Lord.
What are you telling the world around you about Jesus? What are your actions, facial expressions, rolling eyes, or gentle touches saying about the Lord of Love that you claim to follow?
We won’t always get it right. We will make mistakes. Our pride and self-reliance will express themselves when we least expect it. But the good news is that there is always grace. There is always mercy. There is always forgiveness. And that is the good news we are to pass on to others.
So, the question isn’t to be or not to be a disciple or disciple-maker – we cannot help it; we cannot, but communicate to those who are watching and learning from us that we are disciple makers. What kind of disciples will we be making?
Our job isn’t to do it perfectly but to do it by God’s grace by always looking to our Savior and Friend who has promised to be there, to strengthen, and to help us represent Him to a watching, hurting, and needy world. Go today and make disciples. Rely on Him to give you what you need to represent Him accurately.
“He gives us more grace.” James 4:6