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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship Chapter 6

Matt 5:1-12 Beatitudes

Bonhoeffer opens with the people watching Jesus’ disciples on the mountain. Christ’s followers used to be like them, ordinary men. What made them different?  How could they leave everything and follow Jesus? Could they follow Him too? If so, how does the life of a disciple look?

Bonhoeffer goes through the Beatitudes, describing the character and life of a disciple. I’m going to hit the highlights.

 “By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity…The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future. But the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgment, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise. And so the disciples are strangers in the world, unwelcome guest and disturbers of the peace.”

The world keeps the church at arm’s length. Churches are not invited to celebrate the triumphs and barely tolerated to assist in tragedy. However disciples are sorrow-bearers, whether the world welcomes the love or not. They show mercy to the one’s God loves. Jesus went among the sinners to gather disciples and we must go among them too. In so doing, we renounce our own dignity and righteousness.

“As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation and sin of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety…If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”

This sounds like a lot of work! How can a disciple bear his own cross and help his fellow man- especially those who don’t want help? Surely God is asking too much! 

“Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them  to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole sufferings of the world upon the cross.”

Not only are disciples to bear sorrows, they are to make peace when the world screams, “fight!” Disciples choose to endure pain instead of inflict it. They chose to accept being wronged, they deny their rights and in that, they make peace. 

But nowhere will that peace be more manifest than where they meet the wicked in peace and are ready to suffer at their hands.”
Disciples willingly accept the suffering of others, whether they deserve it or not. How can they do this?

Because disciples are also meek. What does that mean? 

Jesus left all. He humbled Himself and served. He didn’t claim His rights as Lord. For the Joy before Him, He endured the cross. We too must deny our rights and any claim we have on this Earth. We must trust God and the Kingdom ahead. 

“[R]enounce every right of their own and live for the sake of Jesus Christ. When reproached, they hold their peace; when treated with violence they endure it patiently; when men drive them from their presence, they yield their ground. They will not go to law to defend their rights, or make a scene when they suffer injustice, nor do they insist on their legal rights. They are determined to leave their rights to God alone.”

All this sounds crazy. Why would anyone want this life?

Because it’s a relationship, not a life style. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we hunger and thirst for more. There’s never enough! But many lack this hunger. Why? Because in order to hunger, we must first deny our flesh. 

“Not only do the followers of Jesus renounce their rights, they renounce their own righteousness too. They get no praise for their achievements or sacrifices.” 

How can one live such a selfless life?

They are pure in heart. Not simply pure from evil but pure from good as well. 

“Only those whose hearts are undefiled by their own evil- and by their own virtues too. The pure in heart have a child-like simplicity…innocent alike of good and evil:  their hearts are not ruled by their conscience, but by the will of Jesus…Purity of heart is here contrasted with all outward purity, even the purity of high intentions.” 

Lastly the disciple is willing to endure persecutions at the hands of those they serve and love.
How can one do all this?

“The fellowship of the beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all.” 

1)       Which Beatitude do you struggle with the most and why?
2)      Have you ever experience a time when “good” things got in your way of being Pure of Heart? How did you identify it and what did you do next?
3)      Have you ever known someone who exemplified the Beatitudes? Were you challenged to draw closer to God?
4)      What steps do you need to take to embody the life of a Disciple? 

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