The Dangerous Duty of Discipling
I was preparing to publish another pastoral prayer today when I happened to read a short bit out of 2 Timothy which then set off a different stream of thinking. Here is the text:
But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me!(2 Timothy 3:10-11)
Paul loved his son-in-the-faith Timothy. That is evident wherever they are mentioned or interact. And Paul was a faithful discipler to Timothy. He was a man who diligently pursued his Lord and learned to order all things in his life under the mighty hand of his Lord. No, not to the point of sinlessness, but to the point of consistency and faithfulness. This is so true that he could tell the church at Corinth to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1) because he was confident that he was imitating Christ.
It is here that the duty of being a discipler of others becomes very dangerous. The essence of discipleship is calling the person to follow you. The assumption is that you are following Jesus and have done so to the point of greater maturity than the other person. You are inviting them to walk down the same path you walked. You are, in other words, calling them to imitate you.
Do you see the element of danger now? Look at the list Paul put together for Timothy, all that Timothy followed Paul in doing. Notice that immediately following that there is not the standard apology that Paul could have “been better at being an example.” There is the simple, confident statement that Timothy followed him. Not just his teaching, but in his conduct. Not just his conduct, but his sufferings. Not just his perseverance, but his love. Such a broader spectrum of the life of a Christian.
Discipleship is a serious, dangerous duty. We are all called to make disciples of Jesus and that assumes we are pursuing and following Him ourselves. There is no reason not to be moving toward discipleship, all that is required is to repent of taking that duty lightly. Discipling a person is a life of continual repentance as you exhibit what it looks like not to have ‘arrived’ as much as to be pressing onward.