What Does It Mean to Be a Disciple?By Hubert Harriman, President
The Bible is full of words known and understood in the various cultures and contexts of its day, but those words took on a different flavor when God poured Himself into them. When Jesus took hold of a very well-known word and practice in His day—disciple—He took it to another level. One cannot read His words in Luke 14:26-27 without knowing this. Turning to the great multitudes who were going with Him, He said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate (or, does not put me before and above) father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (NIV). All of a sudden, not only was this word raised to a different level; it was a call to a different lifestyle.
It is extremely discomforting to be called to do something we know we ought to do but to not want to be bothered. But this word, this call, won’t leave us alone, and, no matter our attempts to try to tone the language down to suit our more self-oriented side, this word bothers us—and more than one Jonah has run from the divine ought in his or her life.
I heard one father lament that his son didn’t like the things he liked. I think Jesus laments that, of the multitudes who claim His name, few like what He likes. This makes me believe that the root cause for poor discipleship has more to do with taste than it does with faith. For many of us, the word disciple is not easy to swallow. We have no taste for it.
In the story of the woman at the well, when the disciples, who had gone into the village to buy food, brought their food to Jesus, He said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32). When they wondered if someone had brought him food, Jesus responded by saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (4:34). Too many have no taste for this kind of food—the food of a disciple: (1) to do the will of our Father, (2) to finish the work of our Father, and (3) to give witness to the way to our Father. A disciple who isn’t always reaching out to another needy soul, as Jesus did with the woman at the well, will starve to death. Sadly, many who call themselves disciples know nothing about this food.
So, what does it mean to be a disciple? A true disciple of Jesus Christ likes what Jesus likes, which is giving oneself completely to the Father’s will—souls! It took the infilling with the Holy Spirit to change the disciples’ taste. So, what are you eating?
MORE: Dig a little deeper into the text this week. Read Luke 14:25–35 to learn more about the cost of being a disciple.