Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
In Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg describes discipleship as journeying with Jesus. The following thoughts are based on his work.
Following Jesus is a journey that begins with a radical change in the direction of our lives. It may lead to a confrontation with political powers and death. We call this journey discipleship. The disciples followed Jesus through the villages and towns of Galilee and eventually to a cross outside of Jerusalem.
To journey with Jesus is a vision of the Christian life as a journey of transformation. It leads from life under the lordship of culture to the life of companionship with God.
To journey with Jesus means living like an itinerant or sojourner. It means living simply and not being bound by possessions. It means trusting God to provide enough from day to day.
To journey with Jesus means listening to his teaching—and like his disciples, sometimes understanding it, sometimes not quite getting it. However, discipleship is based upon the fundamental concept that lessons are to be put into practice as they are learned. The learning and the doing are a lifelong process.
To journey with Jesus means being his companion on the road. The root of the word companion is “com panis” which means “with bread.” It means eating at his table and experiencing his banquet. It means being fed and nourished by him. It also means sharing our food with others. This is meant to be an inclusive banquet. It is an ever-widening table of fellowship.
To journey with Jesus means breaking down the barriers that divide us and accepting others without judgment. It means welcoming and mixing with the unclean, the profane, and the diseased.
To journey with Jesus means living in community—becoming part of the alternative community of Jesus. Sometimes, but not always, the church can be that community. The kingdom of God is much larger than the church. Discipleship is not an individual path, but a journey in the company of other disciples. We need community to sustain us.
To journey with Jesus means being compassionate. “Be compassionate as God is compassionate” (Luke 6:36) is the defining mark of the follower of Jesus. Compassion is the fruit of life in the Spirit and the ethos of the community of Jesus.
To journey with Jesus means opening our eyes to the needs of others. Compassion leads us to service - meeting fundamental human needs of food, clothing, and shelter.
To journey with Jesus means sharing with others. Over and over again, Jesus calls on us to give freely, to lend without thought of return, to be generous and gracious.
To journey with Jesus means seeking justice. We are called to speak on behalf of those who have no voice - the poor and oppressed of every land.
To journey with Jesus means embracing nonviolence—to absorb hostility and to replace revenge with forgiveness. It involves loving our enemies and praying for their transformation. It involves breaking the cycle of reciprocation, not only of evil for evil, but also good for good.
To journey with Jesus means a willingness to die for the sake of the kingdom. The journey of Jesus led to the cross. That is where Jesus calls us to follow today—the way of the cross. This is not some inward spiritual journey. This is a confrontation with power, violence and death. But we are not alone. Jesus walks ahead. He leads the way. And he bids us to come and join him.
© 2007 Kurt Struckmeyer