Discipleship as an act of Love
1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
Paul was admonishing the church in Corinth to take on the very nature of Christ. There were a lot of good things happening in the church but there were still concerns. Paul especially emphasized the fact that he was consistent in his teaching “everywhere” that he went and in “every” church. He’s not just providing something different for this church but has the same expectation for discipleship here that he does in every church that he establishes.
Paul’s love for the Corinthians becomes apparent because he sends them Timothy. This young man had become like a son to Paul, and Timothy had learned what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He preached the word, and lived the life of faith. The requirement for leadership was to be faithful in the Lord. They were to live lives that could be imitated.
It would have been difficult for Paul to share this beloved son in the Lord with the church at Corinth but his desire for their discipleship was so great that he was willing to give up Timothy. Everything that Paul did in life was consistent with his teaching and revealed the deep love that he had for his spiritual children and his desire for them to be discipled.
Just as Paul understood the deep need for discipleship, so did John and Charles Wesley. They were the founders of the Methodist movement and began to understand that living as God’s holy people meant a life of discipleship. The powerful image in this story from Paul is that he is willing to give up his spiritual son for the discipleship of the Corinthians. For Paul and for the Wesleys, discipleship was a priority and I don’t think that they could have imagined the Christian life without this emphasis. It cost them, and others to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.
Does our discipleship look like an act of love?
Is knowing and imitating Christ a priority in our lives?
If this was the top priority for Paul in every church everywhere — it seems that it ought to be our priority as well. But discipleship takes time, effort, and a lot of love, and those things don’t always see instant results. We live in a world which expects things to happen quickly and if they don’t, then we are ready to throw in the towel. For many in the church we are watching the number of folks in the pew decline and in response we are trying to find a quick fix. I don’t think there is a quick fix and I don’t think that Paul would have advocated for one. He saw discipleship as an act of love from one person to another, guiding us into a deep relationship of holy love with Christ. This resulted in radical transformation and eventually into evangelization. True evangelization and church growth comes from discipleship. Jesus told us to go and make disciples!
If we love those within the community of faith — if we love our church — we will do everything that we can, give all that we have, for them to be discipled. This is what God did in sending his beloved son. This is what Paul did in sending his beloved spiritual son. May God help us to be his holy people, devoting ourselves to him and giving all that we have out of love to be his disciples.
Lord, thank you for your sacrifice. Please, help me to live into that sacrifice and grow more in you. Amen.
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