By Chris Ratliff
The notion of discipleship is a powerful one. For anyone to say he is a Christian ought to mean, “I am a disciple of Christ.” And to be a disciple means you strive hold nothing back from your commitment to follow him.
Examining the simple logic that true discipleship leads to salvation — everlasting life in the presence of God — then we know that the requirements of discipleship are the necessities for salvation, which we find in scripture:
1. John 3:5 (Baptism). Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
2. Romans 10:9 (Have and profess faith). “. . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
3. Matthew 7:21 (Do God’s will). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
4. John 6:53-54 (The Eucharist). Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
The first three are preconditions that must be fulfilled before you can partake of the 4th. Oddly, many protestant denominations stop after the 2nd: get baptized and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, and you have salvation, period. We Catholics recognize the need for the 3rd and the 4th.
Of the four, the toughest for everyone, in which our aspiring to discipleship is most tested, is the 3rd: do God’s will. The difficulty of achieving this imperative is worth a lot of contemplation, lest we fool ourselves, as many in our culture have done, into believing that if you are a “nice person,” then you are doing God’s will. That is what Christian Smith has called moral therapeutic deism – read more here.
So what is a good — in fact, the best — example of discipleship? We find it in the example set by the one we aspire to follow: Jesus nailed to the cross. He was obedient to God’s will even unto death. When I think about Matthew 16:24 (Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.), I think, “not my will, but yours, God (from Luke 22:42), even unto death.” None of this is related to finding comfort and pleasure, but it is the path to true happiness and life everlasting.