There is no simple formula for making disciples. The Modern Western approach would like for you to think that to mix the right ingredients, at the right time, will result in a disciple. I am humored at publishers trying to simplify the disciple making process into a step-by-step curriculum. Disciples are made as a result of the triadic relational interaction between the disciple, discipler, and the Holy Spirit. These relationships are complex, mysterious, and often risky; this is why many would rather choose a safe, non-relational approach to ministry. Programs can be done without a relationship, disciple making cannot.
The bond of love between you and your disciple will not only draw you into his failures, but you may find yourself the object of his failure, even as Jesus was the object of Peter’s betrayal. If Jesus’ disciples brought him pain, what makes me think that my disciples will not hurt me? If Paul’s disciples brought anxiety and disappointment to his life, what makes me think that I will not experience the same questioning and betrayal?
Forgiveness is the nature of God and therefore an important lesson for your disciple to learn. A disciple learns how to forgive by being forgiven by his discipler, just as Jesus forgave Peter after his very public failure. (I can hear Jesus’ critics saying, “What kind of teacher is this Jesus guy anyway? Look! Even his own disciples have betrayed him!” ) To lay down your life for your disciple is to open yourself up to hurt, pain, and maybe even public ridicule.
Though we were an enemy of God, he took the initiative in seeking an adoptive relationship with us to become his children. Paul writes: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Your disciple’s behavior may not deserve your love, but that is beside the point. Love reaches out to her enemies and to those who betray her.
A couple of closing thoughts:
- Your forgiveness of your disciple is an opportunity for him to understand the forgiveness and love of God.
- You are able to forgive your disciple because Jesus paid for his sin on the cross. (Even his sin against you.)
- To Parents. Children are a disciple of their parents. Your child will fail somewhere along the way and bring you heartache, disappointment, and possibly public shame. You are to forgive as Jesus forgave Peter. (Be aware. Your other children are watching how you handle the failure of their siblings.)