The Deeper Reality of Discipleship
Do you know this African American spiritual with these haunting words and melody?
I am a poor wayfaring stranger
While traveling through this world of woe
Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger
In that bright world to which I go
I’m going there to see my Father
I’m going there no more to roam
I’m only going over Jordan
I’m only going over home
This “poor wayfaring stranger” is you and me in union with the traveler whose soul gifted us with these words. Another song rings out “This world is not our home; we’re just passing through…” As a follower of Jesus, beside the other images of discipleship I have already articulated, I am a traveler with God on life’s journey. The early followers of Christ were called the “people of the way.” Jesus saw himself as the Way. It is appropriate, then, to look at our journey with God as pilgrims on this terrestrial ball en route over Jordan… over home.
The Bible is replete with this image of the people of God as travelers. Abraham walks (travels through life) with God to an unknown city. The people of the Exodus or the Exile are going home over Jordan or returning home. Jesus leaves heaven’s shores to light upon the troubled earth to show us how to travel this life with God. Paul travels from one city to the next announcing the gospel of peace and of the kingdom of God. The very language of discipleship or following Jesus is the language of traveling. A disciple is a traveler. He is the prodigal traveling back home to the father.
Some time in our zeal at converting people, we present a gospel without travel. Accept Jesus so you’ll go to heaven is a travel voucher with no trip. I would prefer a gospel that invites people to travel with God in this life on the way “over Jordan, over home.” The destiny of converts has been preset from the foundations of the world. It is conformity to the image of Christ (See Romans 8:29). This conformity is the content of the walk of discipleship. It is the traveling part of the Great Commission: learning whatsoever Jesus commanded. The gospel we accept is also the gospel we perform. Think of the gospel as your performance in Christ as you travel through life “going over home”.
Do you long for this? Do you like the deer panting for water yearn for it? Can you live a day without the burning desire to reach your destiny of conformity with Christ? I hope not. I don’t want to live any other way. But traveling without destination is like blowing in the wind.
Paul was hard pressed to choose between living and dying. His deeper desire, which he says is far better, is to journey on “over Jordan” to be with the Lord, but for the sake of the Philippians he would be willing to journey on in this world. Now, to be honest, often I reverse these two. I prefer to stay here but if I have to I am willing to go there. This is when I realize that I have lost sense of the direction of Christlikeness.
The deeper reality of discipleship is not that life is a journey. Many have seen that: Homer (Odyssey), Virgil (Aeneid), Chaucer (Canterburry Tales), Twain (Life on the Mississippi), Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s). John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress), on the other hand, saw life not only as a journey but as a pilgrimage with Jesus.
For the follower of Christ whose heart is set on traveling the Way, life is a journey with God into conformity to the image of Christ. That is the content, goal, and destiny of our journey of discipleship. Walk along with the master and you will get there.
Send this Column to a Friend
- The Spirit Annointed King May 2013
- The Year Of Learning Jesus… February 2013
- Journey With God January 2013
- Teach Us To Pray December 2012
- What Are You Reading For Christmas? November 2012
- The Formative Power of Trouble October 2012
- The Formative Power Of Witnessing September 2012
- The Formative Power Of Reading The Bible Devotionally July 2012
- Maturity=Obedience April 2012
- Ready. Aim. Shoot. January 2012
- More Columns from Walking with the Master