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Disciples or Duplicates


Jesus made disciples and told them to make others (Matt 4:18-22, Matt 28:19, Mark 16:15, NIV translation). You and I can be part of those others today. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?

Theologians coined the term “Christlike” to describe a disciple. The apostle Paul wrote that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” and that “we have the mind of Christ.” (Phil 2:5 and I Cor 2:16) But Christlike is above my pay grade. I can’t walk on water, raise the dead, be “God with us”, or die for the sins of humanity. So, the invented term “Christlike” strikes me as a bad model for discipleship.

A “disciple” is one who follows, not one who mimics the leader. I get that we should probably adopt some of Jesus’ characteristics ̶ love, compassion, mercy, and such. God is more than able to lead me to develop them. And believe me, he has. I’m a LOT better than I was, no thanks to my own efforts to mimic Jesus!

Here’s my point: Jesus doesn’t need a bunch of wannabe Jesuses running around. He wants followers… disciples, a different relationship altogether.

Look at Jesus’ original twelve disciples. Let’s see how they did the disciple thing. Peter was an impetuous hothead who spent his time with Jesus being often wrong but never in doubt. James and John, called “sons of thunder”, wanted to call down a heavenly airstrike on a Samaritan town (Luke 9:51-56) and tried to convince Jesus to appoint them to special seats of power (Mark 10:35-45). All of the disciples bickered, worried, and were clueless, misunderstanding Jesus’ meanings and intentions at every turn. The only thing they had in common was that they followed Jesus, not that they were like him.

I find no case where Jesus told any of his disciples to be like him. He did teach the Jewish crowds that discipleship involved abiding in his word (John 8:31), giving up everything, and carrying a cross (Luke 14:25-33). He told the twelve (minus Judas, who was busy turning Jesus in) that their love would be their badge of discipleship. (John 13:35) But notice when Peter tried to counsel Jesus as a peer, Jesus rebuked him, calling him “Satan”! (Matt 16:23) Jesus could have said, “Be like me,” but he didn’t. He didn’t want imitators or co-leaders; he wanted disciples… followers.

Discipleship is a one-on-one walk, not a lockstep march. We can’t do what he did, be who he is, or even walk in other disciples’ footsteps. Instead, we need to be the original, one-of-a-kind, broke-the-mold individuals as God made us, following his son.

We’re called to be disciples, not duplicates.


Mike Pulley

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