Every day we see people all around us. We see people in our neighborhoods, at the store, in the workplace, at restaurants, and a plethora of other places. If you were asked to describe someone that you saw yesterday, how would you respond? “He was about 6 feet tall and skinny. Maybe 160 pounds. He had dark hair and a beard. I would guess he was 35 years old. He was wearing jeans, brown shoes, and a grey jacket.” “The elderly woman was about 80 years old and she had “white” hair. She wore glasses and her fingernails were painted red.” “The blonde-headed little boy had lots of energy. He was trying to grab several things and put them in the grocery cart. He was wearing a football jersey with sweatpants.” All of these descriptions provide physical characteristics of the people we saw.
But what if we started looking at people the way Paul saw them? In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, he gives us a different description of people. He says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children…For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God…” Paul was not necessarily concerned with physical appearances, but he saw people as needing discipleship – they needed to be loved and led.
The people around you need to be loved and led as well! Picture a mom holding her infant child. The baby is clothed in an adorable outfit and wrapped carefully in a blanket. The mom holds the baby close to her as she rocks him to sleep. This mom cares deeply for this child. She wants to protect him and nurture him. She also just wants to be close to him. Although she could lay him in the crib for a nap, there is something precious about just holding him.
With those around us we may not be able to hold them and rock them to sleep, but they should know we want to be close to them and care for them. Paul genuinely cared for and loved the Thessalonians. “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) Sharing the gospel was not a task to be completed, but Paul wanted the people to know and understand his love for them because God first loved them. Paul didn’t just “love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) He shared his life with the Thessalonians. Are we truly sharing our lives with those around us? Do we love people because they are created in God’s image? Do we want them to know the love that God has for them? Timothy was genuinely concerned for those at Philippi (Philippians 2:20). Do we genuinely love those that God has placed around us?
Love is a big component of discipleship, but it is not the only component. As we love others, we should also lead them to “walk in a manner worthy of God.” This takes effort. I remember when my dad tried to teach me to drive a car with a manual transmission. It didn’t come “automatically” to me (I couldn’t resist an attempt at a little humor). He had to explain about the clutch and shifting gears. He had to encourage me to not quit when the car kept stalling out. It was a process, but I finally got the hang of it.
We need to exhort, encourage and charge people to walk with God, too. They need to be led in what this looks like. Discipleship is taking what you have learned and teaching it to someone else so they can in turn teach another person. Those around you may not know as much about God as you do, or they may not understand how to apply biblical principles to their lives. That is where you explain, encourage, and challenge them. Just as a father leads a child in learning something new, we should provide the example for others in following Jesus.
Each believer is called to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). There are opportunities all around us. So as you go through your week see the opportunities before you. See the numerous people that need to be loved and led. And then disciple them by loving and leading them to walk in a manner worthy of God.”
Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden
Rediscovering Discipleship Making Jesus’ Final Words our First Work by Robby Gallaty