You obey every day. You obey the legislations of government—even those you don’t agree with. You obey an employer, school teacher or parent. Some have to heed all three on the same day. Much of life seems to be about some form of compliance, doesn’t it? And, as a general rule, we are more ready to obey an authority we trust, respect and love.
Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus’ sending command to his disciples after his resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The emphasis here, of course, is the authoritative directive for those who love Jesus to go and make disciples. This is for all peoples and nations. This is about being immersed in a new Trinitarian family identification. And then there is the teaching to observe what Jesus has commanded to the end of days.
Now let’s slow down a bit. Go back and look at how disciple-making actually happens. What is the Jesus way? Those who identify themselves with the Father, Son and Spirit become disciples as they are taught to observe and keep by practice the teachings of Christ. Did you catch the nuance? Disciples need to be taught to obey. Not simply taught principles, concepts, ideas or wonderful truths. The teaching is unto obedience in the way of our heavenly king.
This is significant. And it is a significant cultural challenge, for we love the idea of ideas. We scramble after teachings, blogs and ramblings like this one. We are flailing in the information age. However, it was not actually Jesus’ hope that we bloat our brains or read books that agree with our interpretations of what he said. His commission is for disciples to act like him, to practise God-like-ness.
Let’s be honest, many of us really don’t need more information, but we do need to practise what we know he said. To be even more forthright, we may actually need someone to help us learn how to obey what Jesus has commanded, because we don’t really know how to live in his kingdom, or we have fallen more in love with our ideas about Jesus than with Jesus himself. And to be in full compliance with our Lord, we must also be teaching others this same radical obedience. This is discipleship.
So let us consider the Jesus way this simply: For this week, choose a command of Jesus and actually do it. And don’t pick one you like. If you are wired to love the message that no one comes to the Father except through him, maybe just wash someone’s feet. If you are thrilled with his command to love the least and marginalized, then obey him when he says to shout his good news from the rooftops. And when you’ve done a week of this, and have actually been not just a hearer of his Word, but a doer, then go and teach someone how to do the same.
I’m thinking that if just a few of us take up this challenge, we may be transformed, see Jesus more clearly, and make disciples who don’t just know about our Lord, but are actually more like him.
Phil Wagler (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Surrey, B.C., with his family. He’s learning to obey Jesus every day.
Read Phil's previous column: "Jesus loves his bride . . . to the point of death."