Summary: Often we reject our role as disciples because the thought of leading others to Jesus scares us. We don’t think we know enough about the Bible, or understand enough about theology, or believe we’re good enough. And we’re right.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
As disciples we are all Christian leaders. That’s a concept we may not all be comfortable with. We often think of Christian leaders as clergy or maybe a small handful of select members of the laity for specific functions like music or youth ministries.
But when you really think about it, people see Jesus through us. If we are living as Jesus lived and doing what Jesus did, then people will see Jesus in us and follow us.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the Apostle Paul tells us to “follow him as he follows Christ,” or “imitate him as he does Christ,” depending on the translation. The Greek word he uses for follow or imitate is mimhth/v (mih-may-TASE), from which we get the word mimic. The best mimics make you think the original is right there instead of the mimic, don’t they?
Rich Little is considered one of the best mimics in show business. When he mimics someone, it’s not just copying the voice. The choice of words, the mannerisms, the pauses and inflections, are all part of his characterization of a particular person, and if you’ve ever heard Rich Little impersonate someone, you may have thought for a moment you were really seeing the person being mimicked instead of the person doing the mimicking.
Pope John Paul II had that same effect on a lot of people. Many people saw Jesus through the life and actions of John Paul. Henri Nouwen also had that effect on people. Nouwen was a priest and professor at Norte Dame and Harvard who left his lofty position in academia to live in a small community group helping mentally challenged adults with daily activities like brushing their teeth or taking showers.
Many people saw Jesus in Henri and were led to Christ by the way Henri followed, or imitated, Christ.
St. Francis of Assisi discarded all his wealth except for a single tunic and lived the rest of his life in poverty, helping the poor and the sick. Many people saw Jesus in Francis and followed Francis as he followed Christ.
We face the same options today as everyone else has throughout the past 20 centuries. Do we follow Christ or ourselves? Do we choose to obey God’s will or our own? Are we willing, or willful?
Often we reject our role as disciples because the thought of leading others to Jesus scares us. We don’t think we know enough about the Bible. We don’t think we understand enough about theology to answer any questions that the other person might have. We don’t think we’re good enough. And we’re right.
We don’t know enough about the Bible. Muslims memorize the entire Koran and Hebrew children had the first five books of the Bible memorized by age 10. Even today, Jewish children are required at many temples to have at least two years of Hebrew language training and scripture study before their Bar Mitzvah at age 13.
Most Christians can’t even name the first five books of the Bible.
And we don’t know enough theology; we never will. No one knows enough to have a ready response for any question someone may ask. “I don’t know” is often the only response for questions we’re asked.
And we’re not good enough. None of us are. That’s why we need a savior. If any of us could save ourselves, God would have told us to “just do what that guy did.” Instead he became human, took our sins upon himself, then died and rose again — imbuing us with his righteousness, not our own.
We are not Jesus, but if we are truly following him we show the way for others to follow him as well. All along the highway we see signs pointing toward Los Angeles, but none of those signs are actually Los Angeles. They merely point us in the right direction.
That’s our job as disciples in a nutshell. We’re expected to point people in the right direction toward Jesus. It’s an awesome responsibility, and an awesome blessing.
And God gives us the power to succeed.
Erik Weihenmayer climbed not only to the top of Mount Everest, but also to six other major mountain tops. He is one of 100 mountain climbers to scale the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each of the seven continents — and he did it in just seven years. He also climbs cliff faces, skis at high speeds, and sky dives.
His actions have been an inspiration to thousands of handicapped children and adults since he reached the peak of Mount Everest in 2001. That’s when media interest increased and Erik became more well-known.