To light the way in the darkness, it’s not enough to simply shine a light. I have to leave the security of the mountains to travel through the valley roads where the lost live, where they toil and they die, all the while longing for a rest from suffering. In hopes of reaching the mountains, they’ve made from dirt and stone high places, altars to gods and forces and the stars above. And they beg them for love, peace, and joy. I remember being that way myself, always falling back asleep when a philosophical angel caressed my cheek with false hope. I remember seeing the City in the distance for years, but the angel would say, “That place of cleanliness isn’t for the filthy. It’s only for the righteous.”
Though now I know the Apostle Paul wrote, “none are righteous (just), not one” in Romans 3:10, I didn’t know then. And how would I? How would I have known anything if someone hadn’t taught me, that is, lit the way? Look what else Paul wrote:
“But how can they [unbelievers] call on him [Jesus] to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:14-15 NLT)
So Jesus sent his disciples into the World. Again we read:
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)
So Jesus not only sent them to light the way, but to lead the way. A disciple is a student, and every student needs a teacher to lead the way in learning. So he meant for the existing disciples to form relationships with the lost, so the lost would awaken to the false gods of iron, wood, and gold and to the false philosophies of words, definitions, and arguments and actually be startled by how fake those things were. Like how startled I was when I awoke and I crawled backwards in the dirt, kicking at the idols and searching for a human hand like mine.
It’s our job to have that hand ready to hold those who are awakening. We know the way back to the City on a Hill and they don’t yet.
Now so many people want to just be the leader in a relationship, but who wants to be side by side with his students as the friend? Even more so, who wants to be lower than that as their servant? Surely such a thing is insanity: students must blindly obey their teachers, right? Our entire society is modeled on a form of leadership based on survival of the fittest, where the clawed kill the weak. Yet God did not intend that for us, and His Son turned that style of kingdom on its head:
“Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” (Luke 22:25-26 NLT)
Jesus became a servant to his disciples, despite being of the royal tribe of Judah and heir to the throne of Israel. He fed thousands like a waiter, healed their wounds like a nurse, even cleaned feet like a slave. He could’ve claimed servants for himself, but instead he lived example after example of what literal Christian life would be in his new world. It would be an upheaval of the traditional relationships mankind had developed. It would, in God’s sovereign wisdom, be an upside down Kingdom. Like Jesus said:
“Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27 NLT)
Discipleship as Friendship
He also called us friends instead of his servants, despite as King deserving the highest rank among even his peers. Jesus said:
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:12-15 NLT)
I’ve found it’s so much easier to learn from friends than from authorities. Friends care about you; authorities care about being right. Friends want to see you grow; authorities want to grow their influence. Friends will die for you, and you for them; authorities couldn’t care less if you individually lived to see the morning sun.
Maybe that’s why one of my best friends is also my pastor. He started off as another leader to me, someone to listen to and learn from, but over the past 4-5 years he has become closer to me than a brother. And he models Christ for me, showing me how to follow Jesus by never exercising authority over me, never demanding obedience, never abusing his position—but always treating me as his close friend. I’ve also been through some tough times with him, so he knows my darkest secrets, and he’s seen the worst of me, yet he still calls me friend. He models Christ like that. And because I trust my friend and know I’m loved, I’m open to being taught by him, corrected by him, even called out by him if need be. And so in our friendship, I learn more about what my relationship with Christ should be like. Not a blind following, but a friendship built on real things like trust, sacrifice, and love.
And when I get to know through my teachers the Light that is Christ, I can follow them back to the City on the Hill to repeat the process with others of the lost. You see, the City on the Hill was meant to grow. It was meant to fill the whole Earth, to crowd out the World, and change Society. In the microcosm (the details), we believers were meant to be great friends, like my pastor and me. In the macrocosm (the big picture) humanity was meant to reconcile with God and become His Church. Let’s work so Jesus’ words can be true of everyone possible:
“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” (John 15:15 NLT)