If you cut me off in traffic, it will irk me — unless I know you’re rushing to the hospital. And, if you live next door, we’ll keep quiet at night so we don’t wake you — unless your apartment is on fire. Then we’ll be shouting and pounding on your door.
What we understand about our circumstances makes all the difference. This is the root of discipleship. Jesus’ every word, deed, and miracle reflected His knowledge of reality. He knows what’s real, and His life signals reality to the rest of us. When He was direct with someone, it was because He knew that person’s life was “on fire.” When He healed the centurion’s servant from a distance, it was because the centurion understood and appealed to what was true about Jesus.
By learning from Jesus what’s true, we’re more able to live as He would in our shoes. Because not everything He teaches is as obvious as an apartment fire, discipleship is a lifelong learning process. We learn from Scripture, experience, and others.
Here are the five guiding themes from Jesus’ life I see as foundational to any discipleship process. They reflect the “reality” He demonstrated and passed to His disciples:
- Love God wholeheartedly and others as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40)
- Abide in Christ (John 15:4-5)
- Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22-25)
- Identify as family with those who follow Christ (Matthew 12:48-50)
- Seek the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
Each of these themes represents a worldview and a practice. Many of the common practices of following Christ fall under one or more of them (e.g., reading the Bible, spiritual gifts, fellowship, and prayer). Taken together, these practices and perspectives can bring dramatic change to any community of believers.