When Jesus called the first disciples, he called them into community.
I know that “community” and “doing life together” sound really good. And I’m not sure if you know this or not, but people aren’t easy. And hypocrisy is easy to point out in other people. But it’s never just in “THOSE people, over THERE, doing THAT thing.” It’s in all of us. Because none of us live out the values and principles to which we aspire. Or announce. Not perfectly. Else, why would anyone ever need to apologize?
So there were 12 chosen by Jesus. To do life together. Live in community. And there was tension. Oh yeah, straight up- Jesus had tension in his first community of believers. Upset disciples. Lines of division being drawn (Luke 9:46, for instance). There were shocking displays of hatred and racism and desires for murder (Luke 9:52-54). There was self-seeking and trying to cut others out of the top spots (Matthew 20:20-28). There were selfish agendas and fear-driven arguments (Matt. 16:22, John 11:8 and following). There were holier-than-thou, “I’m better than” statements followed by extreme hypocrisy (Matt. 26:33 and following).
And that’s just a quick survey. There were thousands of reasons to walk. To give up on community. To be a disciple without being in community. But Jesus called them to community because…get this!…that’s a HUGE part of what it means to be a disciple. Remember the Great Command? It all boils down to this: “Love God all with your heart, soul, mind, strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” “And just who is my neighbor?” the religious leader asked. The one who is looking down on you and doesn’t like you at all. That one. Serve HIM. Serve HER.
You cannot be a disciple of Christ and not walk in community. It is impossible to follow Jesus and only have fellowship with people you like. People who are easy for you to get along with. Else, you’re not a disciple. You’re no different than any other unconverted person. Definitely not a follower of Christ. Not according to me. According to the Jesus you and I claim to follow. Check it out: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,i what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect (complete in your love for others), as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
When you love Jesus. When your heart has been changed by Jesus. You love what he loves. You love like he loves…sacrificially. Even when…esp. when…it’s not easy. It is impossible to follow Jesus and hate his bride. His church. You may be grieved by how people act. God is, too. But go back and read the first full paragraph. ALL of us need grace. And you’ve been given it by God. Now…go share it. With those who need it. Because it’s not grace if it’s deserved.
Discipleship…means carrying cross, not a chip on your shoulder. If you’re easily offended, that’s on you, bro. Discipleship…means allowing the harsh edges of others to sharpen your love for God. And your love for people who are harder to love. It’s part of the process of growing as a believer in Christ. Christianity is seldom about your rights or mine. It’s almost always about following the Call from our sacrificing King (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32).