“You ever been in a situation,” Stan asked me one morning, “where people wondered why you were where you were?”
“Wondered why I was somewhere?” I replied. “Give me an example of what you mean.”
“Okay,” Stan said. “The other day I was reading in the Book of Acts about where Saul, who became the apostle Paul, went back to Jerusalem from Damascus. You remember that story?”
“A little,” I said. “Is that when he went back to Jerusalem after being converted and he wanted to get together with some of Jesus’s disciples?”
“That’s it,” Stan replied. “Paul wanted to meet with some of the disciples, but they wanted nothing to do with him because they didn’t trust him.”
“Seems reasonable to me,” I commented. “All the disciples really knew about Saul or Paul is that he was a persecutor of Christians, not that he was a Christian himself.”
“That’s right,” Stan said, “and there was point in my life where something similar happened with how I was viewed after I first became a Christian.”
“It wasn’t that I had been going around persecuting and wanting to get rid of Christians like Saul,” Stan replied, “but I sure had made a lot of disparaging remarks about people and their faith. I lived a life that I now see was very contrary to the life of a Christian.”
“I hadn’t understood what being a Christian meant,” he continued, “and then, all of a sudden, I was one!”
“Big change,” I commented.
“Exactly,” Stan said. “And the first time I went to a men’s breakfast at the church after I became a Christian, someone who knew me, or at least knew of me, came up and said, something like, ‘Wow, I’m surprised to see you here’.”
“What’d you say to that?”
“I told him I was surprised to be there myself,” Stan said. “I told him I had become a Christian, but I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t believe me. He said something like ‘that’s great,’ but his face said something totally different.”
“How’d that make you feel?” .
“It kind of hurt my feelings,” Stan replied. “But as I later reflected on this person’s response to me, I could see a valuable lesson for my faith walk.”
“In what way?”
“That, on the one hand, this person was totally justified in his skepticism about me and my faith, but, on the other, he was totally wrong in his approach.”
“Kind of like being wrong in judging another person’s faith commitment?” I asked.
“You got it, my friend,” Stan replied. “It’s not my role to judge in that way.”
“But,” I said, “what if that person’s life doesn’t produce the fruit a Christian is supposed to produce? What about that? Wouldn’t it be fair to wonder about the sincerity of that person’s commitment?”
“Wondering and judging are two different things,” Stan replied.
Continuing, he added, “Jesus talked a lot about how our lives are to produce fruit, but that’s another subject for another day. Actually many days, because I think that’s what discipleship is all about. The point I learned from the person’s reaction to me and the declaration of my faith is that, as a disciples, our role is not to question another person’s faith, but to seek to disciple others to help them grow in that faith.”
“Disciples discipling disciples,” I said. “That sounds kind of like the Great Commission, don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” Stan replied. “Again, that’s another subject for another day, but in a nutshell, I think it’s ‘just like’, not ‘kind of like’!”
Bible verses to consider:
And when he (Saul) had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing he was a disciple. Acts of the Apostles 9:26.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the earth. Matthew 28:19-20.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for welcoming me when I came into your arms as a believer after accepting the free and gracious gift of life eternally with you when it is time, along with the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus before then. I confess that too often I fail to welcome new believers in the same way you welcomed me and you welcome them. Please forgive me of that foolish approach of thinking I am the one to judge the sincerity of another person’s faith commitment. Please help me in following every step of your lead in welcoming and choosing to disciple each person you bring before me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Have you chosen to be welcomed into God’s eternal presence when it is time by accepting His free and gracious provision? If no, why? If you are a Christian, how are you doing in welcoming new believers. Do you too often question or wonder about the sincerity of another person’s faith commitment? If so, what’s that all about? Do you seek to disciple other believers to help them grow in their faith? If you sense the need for change in your approach to being a disciple and in discipling others, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?