“Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Christ does not call us on our terms. If we choose to follow, we do so in submission to His will and His law. Our life thereafter is one of pursuit and guidance—we are both pursued and pursuer, guiding and guided.
When Jesus left the earth in His physical body He left two provisions for the disciples remaining behind. One was the Holy Spirit—God was not departing, He was becoming literally part of His people, living inside and among them to empower them to service and righteousness. The other was themselves, the community of believers to help each other, some to lead and some to follow.
Without more mature Christians to lead and counsel us it’s easy to think our problems are specific to ourselves, that no one has experienced the same level of pain that we have or that no one else struggles with the same sins we do. While we all know on some level this isn’t true, the counsel of wiser (most often older) Christians is indispensable for our growth and maintenance of joy and hope.
Hope is the foundation of the Christian faith. It is our hope of redemption, our hope of eternal life in God’s presence that is the focus of our life on earth, without at the same time rejecting this present existence as somehow less important. Similarly, our hope is not restricted to the far side of the grave—the presence of the Holy Spirit means our striving for purity and righteousness is not vanity.
But the pursuit of holiness is not a solitary one. Discipleship entails a joint effort, a community progress where counsel is both welcome and freely offered. The very nature of discipleship illustrates this fellowship: both the disciple and the counselor benefit from the interaction. While we are each most obviously Christ’s disciples, the books we offer focus primarily on the interaction between believers, a relationship thankfully receiving more and more attention within the American church.