Jan22MonThe Imperfect Disciple, Chapter 2 Reflection January 22, 2018
If you joined us for our CPR reading of The Imperfect Disciple, then you will be reading chapter 2 this week. I hope the surprising title of “Good News for Losers” doesn’t discourage you; it’s a great chapter.
In this chapter is the following quote: “What is discipleship, then, but following Jesus not on some religious quest to become bigger, better, or faster but to become more trusting of his mercy toward our total inability to become those things?”
Wilson’s reference to bigger, better, faster may be an allusion to the motto of the Olympics. Or maybe my mind went there since this is an Olympic year with the winter games set to begin on February 9. Either way, it got me thinking about how we approach discipleship which is clearly Wilson’s intention.
The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger." Wilson suggests that we often view discipleship as a means to produce Olympic-like disciples; followers of Jesus who can memorize Scripture faster, raise their hands higher, and be stronger in their resistance to temptation. Well, that is a bit silly but you get my point. Wilson is taking this outlook—which is true in some ways—and turning it on its head.
Can Jesus, by the Spirit, make believers bigger, better, faster? Of course he can. But if we think of discipleship as a formula-filled program for being all that we can be, we are missing what the gospel and discipleship is all about.
First, we know that Jesus doesn’t call Olympic-calibre people, but rather “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). So right from the get-go we need to understand that were not the shiny-happy people that we often portray ourselves to be. We are weak and pathetic and in desperate need of a Saviour!
Second, our path to “bigger, better, faster” is often through smaller, weaker, slower. Discipleship is about “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Discipleship is about “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Discipleship is about “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). So much of what we believe makes us bigger, better, faster are things we can do by the exertion of our own will. So much of what makes us smaller, weaker, slower is the availing ourselves of God’s grace in Christ Jesus to change us and make us become more like him.
Third, it is in recognizing that we are not Olympic-like disciples, but loser-like disciples, where we come to a place where we lean into Christ and his mercy, love, and grace for us that we might become all he wants us to be. Wilson summarizes,
It's those who would find this admission [that they are losers] beneath them, who think themselves above Christ and his gospel, actually, who will end up losing in the end.
Those who get to the end of the rope, though? Those so overwhelmed they've run out of angles to play, formulas to recite, motivational posters to quote? Those who perennially cannot even Those who sit in the dark wondering how, when, why, and where to start looking for the light? Those who are desperate for Jesus, no matter the cost (mainly be- cause they've already lost it all)?
Winners, the lot of 'em.
In recognizing that those who follow Jesus are imperfect disciples—every single one of us—we might also reflect on the fact that we are also un-Olympic disciples. That is, we are not looking to become bigger, better, faster in our own strength, but looking to become smaller, weaker, slower in His strength and through His grace.