Are you a “Nice Guy” or a Disciple?
by John Richardson | September 12, 2012
Don’t you love those “aha” moments when you see the work of God in a new light? Isn’t it cool when you study a familiar passage of Scripture and come away with an entirely new perspective on its teaching? Don’t you love reading books that push you to a spiritual insight you had previously overlooked?
Those moments are spiritual formation moments. They bend our minds and our hearts slightly more in the direction of God. They tweak our day-to-day living and help us to walk a little closer to the footsteps of Jesus. I think those are the moments where God is remolding – or even repurposing us – as His disciples.
All of us who are honest will admit that we need to be repurposed into His image. Unfortunately, we don’t pop out of the womb with the heart of God. From the very first breaths of life, we begin to ingest the patterns of culture rather than the ways of God. So, spiritual formation moments become crucial to us. We need timely “aha” moments with God to energize us and encourage us in our walk with Him.
Unexpected Encounters with God
As I think back over my life, it is clear that a number of sources have helped produce life changing moments in me. For example, a junior high friend once said to me, “Surely there is more to salvation than just getting into heaven. What do you think God wants for our lives beyond heaven?” That honest question penetrated my heart and jolted me to a new place in my relationship with God.
Another time, I was awakened to the ways of God through the unlikely friendship of a CPA-turned-youth-worker. Then, I experienced a spiritual formation moment as I read a book called Transforming Discipleship by Greg Oden. Most recently, I had one of these incredible life-altering moments as I read the familiar words of Jesus in Luke 6.
Toward the middle of Luke 6, Jesus talks about how we should love our enemies. We have all heard these words before. He says things like, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.” Sound familiar?
The “aha” moment for me came at the end of this passage. In verse 35, Jesus summarizes these thoughts by pointing to one big idea; “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Did you hear that? Jesus says, “Be generous to those who don’t deserve your generosity. When you do that, you’re acting like your Heavenly Father.”
Give to the Undeserving
For some reason, “love your enemy” had always translated, “be a nice guy” in my mind. However, that “aha” moment from Luke 6:35 pushed me to understand that Jesus was not talking about being nice. He was saying that if you want to imitate the ways of God, be generous toward those that don’t deserve it. Give your best to those who haven’t earned it.
For me, that launched me into an entirely new way of following the footsteps of Jesus. Generosity. It helped me understand that generosity is a huge part of God’s character. It opened my eyes to the fact that giving to others is not just a way to “be nice,” but it is a point of spiritual formation.
I can’t really identify any “enemies” in my life. I have a few people that I would classify as “annoying” or “rude,” but none that drop into the enemy category. That category is reserved for some horrific person that I haven’t encountered yet. Because of that, I sometimes struggle to relate to the idea of loving my enemies.
However, when I read Luke 6 now, I am not tripped up by the concept of enemies. Jesus isn’t just talking about people I should despise; He’s talking about people who don’t deserve anything good from me. He wants me to give to the undeserving. He wants that from me because it represents an accurate picture of Him. That’s His way. That’s what He does for me on a daily basis. He gives to the undeserving; therefore, as His child, I should do the same. I should be generous as He is generous, even when the recipient doesn’t deserve that kindness.
The moment I realized that, I had an entirely new perspective of God. I discovered a new heartbeat in my journey of discipleship.
I don’t know about you, but I need those “aha” moments to transform the way I approach life. I need the hand of God to remold me and radically alter my day-to-day routines. Otherwise, I am not really living as a disciple…I am only being a nice guy.
As you study the Word of God this week, watch how God uses the power of giving and generosity. If you are not careful, His radical giving may push you out of your “nice guy” seat, just like it did to me. His generosity may push you to a deeper level of intimacy and following.
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