I currently have a daughter learning to ride a bike and a son learning to drive.
My daughter is 8 and was on the bike riding happily along in no time.
My son is 17 and he has had several lessons but he is not ready to take his test yet.
Learning to ride a bike is fairly instinctive and most people who have a good sense of balance will find this easy.
Learning to drive a car is fairly complicated and takes time. Obviously the mechanics of making it move are easily learnt but then there is how to drive safely on roads, learning the Highway code and finding how to interact with other road users.
So here is the question that I am wrestling with:
Is growing as Disciple of Jesus more like learning to ride a bike or to drive a car?
I have always had a very simple view of discipleship which at its most basic involves reading the gospels and trying to follow Jesus by doing what he says and by following his example.
It is also true though that there are parts of the Christian faith and how it relates to life that can be confusing and unclear. For example, I don’t think there is a clear answer to ‘which party should Christians vote for in the UK general election?’
As we disciple one another, I wonder how we get the balance between simplicity and providing the deeper information that we all need to wrestle with various life issues?
Should we address these two sides of discipleship as equals or with different levels of emphasis?
I have always tended towards the riding a bike metaphor by emphasizing doing and living what we see plainly in the Bible. Jesus said that we should love God and love one another and that these are the two greatest or most important commandments and that all of the rest of the law and the prophets hang on these. If we can do these two things well, then we will instinctively cover a lot of the rest of Biblical truth that hangs or that follows on from these.
Perhaps though the learning to drive is a better metaphor? After all, Jesus discipled people by talking and sharing life with them as they
drove wandered around together. They talked on the way and he showed them how to live as his disciples in a similar way to a driving instructor teaching a learner. A driving instructor has brakes and a clutch on their side and they can reach the steering wheel but they need to use these things less and less as their students become competent. The disciples watched Jesus talk about God and minister to people and then he sent them out without him to have a go. Like learning to drive, maturing as a disciple of Jesus takes time!
Should discipleship be instinctive and simple or does it require a detailed approach with a test at the end before we let new Christian take off their spiritual L plates?
I’m not sure that this question has a straightforward answer unless the answer is ‘elements of both’! I do believe though that if we neglect the basics to focus on something deeper then we are not living as disciples of Jesus.
The first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 explains this well:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
All of the things in this passage are things Christians should aspire to but if we don’t have love then we have missed the point. Christianity isn’t a practical faith that is given to be lived. Discipleship is about so much more than what we know, it is about how we love Jesus by living in a way that is honourable to him as a our Lord and Saviour.
I think the place I currently am regarding the issue of simple or complex discipleship is that it can and should include anything that helps us to love and to follow Jesus more effectively. Discipleship should start with the things that are central to our relationship with Jesus and spread out to look at other areas as our faith develops. Hebrews 5 explains this well:
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
The sign of spiritual maturity is to be able to feed yourself and others spiritually as well as to recognize the difference between right and wrong. It is interesting to note that their immaturity wasn’t to do with not knowing enough, rather it was about them not living out the basics of God’s word.
What does discipleship mean to you?
Do you think that it is more like learning to ride a bike or to drive a car?
Perhaps you can think of an alternative metaphor?