Yes, there IS a spelling error in the title: there’s really no such word as ‘responsivle’ in the English language! Now actually, there’s a good chance that some readers didn’t even notice the spelling problem – they automatically read the word as ‘responsible’ which is only one consonant different. If that was the case for you, give your clever brain a little pat on the occipital lobe (its ‘backside’), because that’s the whole point of this Fish Hooks, namely: the essence of being a responsible Christian is to live responsively to Jesus Christ.
This really goes to the heart of what it means to be one of Jesus’ disciples. If you check out how He acquired His original twelve, you’ll see that they were called to join Him – they didn’t seek Him out! And in the case of the Apostle Paul, his ‘invitation’ was more like being “whacked upside the head” (Acts 9). Now, if you’re new to this discipleship business, please don’t read this as suggesting that becoming a disciple is “by invitation only” to the select few – Jesus passionately wants you to follow Him. But the reality is that no one ever self-qualifies for the role. As Martin Luther explained the third article of the Apostle’s Creed:
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…” (Luther’s Small Catechism: Apostle’s Creed – emphasis added)
To put it as simply as possible, it’s not the task of the disciple to SEEK Jesus – He’s already found you! Rather, we are called to RESPOND to Him.
Though that might sound like a ‘gimme,’ it actually addresses the two most serious errors made by those who look at the Christian faith without understanding the true meaning of discipleship. The first error is to think that finding salvation is a matter of keeping commandments (like the wanna-be disciple in Mark 10:17-22) or of personally summoning up a “saving faith.” But it doesn’t work that way! The Holy Spirit not only leads us to the faith in Jesus Christ which saves, but also does the work of sanctification that follows – giving us the desire to fully conform to God’s will, and the spiritual resources to grow towards that goal. (Sadly, people sometimes exchange these gifts of pure grace for the fatal delusion that they could do it themselves.)
The second error is what is sometimes called “cheap grace,” which is the delusion that you can accept God’s gift of justification (complete forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross) while rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification. In other words, thinking you can accept the gifts of discipleship without actually becoming one. Christ died to free us from our sinful natures – not embrace them!
So, working with the assumption that we are avoiding both of these errors: that we humbly accept the Spirit’s call to faith in Christ, and sincerely desire to live new lives of holiness (which is what sanctified means) what does a life of discipleship look like in practice? We’ll briefly summarize with the Six Marks of Discipleship listed by the Rev. Michael Foss in his book Power Surge:
- Responsive to the access to our Heavenly Father gained for us by His Son, we speak with Him regularly in prayer.
- Responsive to the salvation won for us in Christ, we regularly join with our fellow believers in worship to praise God and be strengthened in Christian living through Word and Sacrament.
- Responsive to God’s incredible love, we seek closer knowledge of His ways through reading the Bible.
- Responsive to our Savior’s example of caring, healing, acceptance, and forgiveness, we mirror the same love to our neighbor through service.
- Responsive to our adoption into God’s family through Baptism, we live in loving relationships with our ‘siblings’ and continuously reach out to draw others into the Household of Faith.
- Responsive to the eternal riches prepared for us in the Heavenly Kingdom, we gladly practice giving of our time, talent, and treasure for the work of God’s Kingdom on earth.
In short: Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to Live Responsively!