I have wrongly viewed discipleship like a college course. In this misconception, some of my best friends are in the class with me, along with some people I don’t particularly care for. Some of our classmates are total strangers.
There are some slackers who are only there because their parents told them they had to go to college. There are some who we just feel sorry for – they’re giving their best effort, but just aren’t succeeding.
I’m trying to do my best to get a good grade in the class. You’re doing your best. If we’re really committed to each other’s success, then we help each other study for exams, we proofread and edit each other’s research papers. But at the end of the semester my grade is still mine, and yours is yours.
Though we may generously assist each other and invest in each other’s success, we are still ultimately pursuing our own individual success in the course. Whether our classmates excel or not, it has no real, substantive impact on us or our final grade. While one classmate may lament a D- at the end of the semester, you may be relieved to find out you finished with an A-! You feel for your classmate, and wish them the best next time, but your own outcome is basically unaffected by theirs.
I have had this individualized view of spiritual growth up to now, and it is wrong. I have thought that “my” spiritual growth stands alone. At the end of my life, I hope “my” discipleship has been a success – I hope “I” have excelled and succeeded. I hope that for you, too, of course – but at the end of the day, your spiritual formation is yours and mine is mine, and they are not intertwined beyond just a few well-wishes.
My brothers and sisters, this is not the case! As I explained in my previous post, most of the you language in the Bible is the second-person plural form of you from the original Hebrew and Greek that would be best translated as “you all” or “y’all”. For instance:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you all have always… continue to work out y’all’s salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you all to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” -Philippians 2:12-14
I am just now peeling back the layers on my flawed view of discipleship as an individualistic pursuit. I am in no way able to explain (yet) the whys and hows behind this, but, I am convinced from the very plain language of the Scriptures that my salvation is inextricably tied to yours. And yours to your neighbor’s. And his to the Pacific Islander across the world. And hers to the 14th-century Chinese peasant. And his to 3rd-century Roman soldier. And on and on and on and on! And all of ours to all of everyone else God has made throughout the ages in this family we call humanity.
Now, I’m not making a statement here about universalism or predestination or anything else. Please don’t put words in my mouth! I’m simply saying that at the end of this “course” called life, my individual report card will not just be an accounting of my own efforts, grades, and success level. It will be tied to yours. And yours to your neighbor’s. And ours to everyone else’s.
And I have this sense that we are going to discover that the connection is far deeper than any of us currently realizes.
What do you think? Leave a comment below, and let’s continue the discussion together…