April 22, 2017

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 94


Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 94 - John 21:17b

The second point worth a study in this verse is: what is the special work that the importance of love is for? Jesus spoke of taking care of, and feeding lambs and sheep. The shepherd’s work of looking after sheep has two main components: making sure they have enough to eat by taking them to fresh pasture when the present one is cropped too short for them to get much nourishment from it, and making sure they are not attacked by either things too small to see, or by lions or by any of all the other things in between that can harm an animal. You will have noticed that I didn’t use any of John’s words in the title of this study but the word ‘discipling’.

That is, of course, the one that Matthew used in his great Commission statement. Discipling is basically teaching, but a bit more than just teaching in a classroom. A disciple is taught both by classroom type instruction and by close observation of the behaviour and manner of the discipler. The process will continue even when the discipler is not physically present – from the Word of God. Even the straightforward teaching bit is not easy - as I know too well having spent nearly all my work life as a teacher of one sort or another. It always seems to me that in church we make it more difficult that it naturally is by our habit of putting everyone in rows to listen and then elevating someone to a higher position to do all the talking. That is lecturing, not teaching, and most professional teachers only do it that way at university where you can be sure that all your hearers are of above average intelligence. In the average congregation half the hearers are of above average intelligence and half are below - that is what average means! Good discipling involves much fewer people at a time, indeed probably just one at a time. And that is a far more difficult thing to set up and do, hence our love of preaching.

Why is that? I think the reason is buried deep in the culture of the Western world to which I, and probably many of you, belong. And even if you don’t the influence of our culture is now so worldwide that it may still be having an effect. Our culture says that we are all individuals and interprets that in a very isolationist way. We are not to tell anybody what they are to think or do. If we do we are trying to control them, manipulate them, and those are very naughty things to do. So we are even told that parents should not tell their children how to think and behave. That, apparently, is something they should be allowed to work out for themselves.

So although almost nobody will be aware of this and the reasons behind it many folk in our culture will be reluctant to open themselves to be discipled or to disciple.

“Feed my sheep” said Jesus to Peter and to all of us. We have to obey him and not the dictates of our local, temporary culture. We have to do all we can to increase the number of deep, properly discipled believers.

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