-Embedded within Christ’s commission to His followers to “Go out into the whole world and make disciples of all men” is a difficult reality; sometimes, our disciples will do awful things. No where is this more reticent than in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and eventual suicide.
Judas was one of the twelve. He ate with Jesus, lived with Jesus, traveled with Jesus, and saw firsthand the miraculous life and love that Christ demonstrated during His three years of ministry. As the Gospels clearly record, God’s sovereign plan was not thwarted by the betrayal of Judas, but rather it was fulfilled.
While the full weight of God’s sovereignty can be difficult for us to grasp or understand at times, we can rest assured in the hope that all things work according to God’s will. There will be times when our disciples, (our children also),make choices that we don’t necessarily agree with, and there will be times when they make choices that, not only do we not agree with, the choices may involve some terribly awful consequences.
Discipleship is not a psychological methodology that promises to recreate the psyche of a person if all the particular steps and medicine are administered, and produces a perfect person. We know that despite the claims of psychology, the failure rate of psychiatry, counseling, and psycho-pharmaceutical drugs is exponentially high. There is no methodology or discipline that solves the problems that sin brought into the world.
Discipleship is unlike psychology in that it does not claim to recreate a person’s psyche into some selfish, utopian ideal. Discipleship is rooted in the Proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go, that when he is old, he will not depart from it”. The biblical guidance is not to train up a child in the way we the parent think he should go, but according to the way God has created the child to go. In the Hebrew of this Proverb, it reads more literally, “Train up a child according to his bents, that when he is old he will not depart from it”. Thus, the goal of the parent, the goal of the Christian who follows the Great Commission, is to recognize the bents (personality, talents, gifts, etc) in the child/disciple, and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, gently help them pursue their walk in life according to God’s plan.
This is a difficult teaching for parents and Christians. It demands that we put our selfish desires for our children and disciples aside, and that we allow our own minds to be elevated by the Holy Spirit (transformed), by being rooted entirely in God’s word (the bible), allowing our children, our disciples, to make their way through this world according to God’s sovereign will.
Discipleship is about knowing our disciples so well, while being led by the Holy Spirit, to lovingly encourage them toward the path God has designed.
This path may result in great sorrow. As we’ve seen in the story of the prodigal son, sometimes the disciple will demand his inheritance, and then leave our community for the things of this world, losing all that he has been given. Yet,if this is God’s plan for the disciple, to prevent our disciples from this path would be more disastrous than not. With Jesus’ disciple Judas, the path eventually led to him committing suicide after he betrayed Jesus.
Christianity and discipleship does not pretend to promise utopia in our community; that is the promise of political religions like communism or socialism. While we are to live with the present notion that the kingdom of God is now, and the kingdom of heaven is now, it does not mean that the disciples in our community will be perfect now, far from it. True discipleship requires that we realize that God’s sovereign plan involves difficult times for ourselves and our disciples. Jesus was crucified on the cross; it was a bloody, awful, tragic way to die. Nearly all of the disciples were killed for their faith in Christ. Being a Christian, being a disciple of Christ, is not a psychological remedy that brings us into a perfect suburban utopia where our lives look like a black and white sitcom from the 1950’s.
Some disciples will betray God. They will make choices that conflict with the truths the church has nurtured in their souls. Some disciples will leave the community to pursue alcohol, drugs, and materialism. Some disciples will commit suicide. Yet we can trust in God that all things work according to His will, and that there is a season for everything that occurs, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says,
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace” [3:1-8 ESV]
*Stock image Asdrubal Luna unsplash.com