Everyone knows that anyone claiming “I am a disciple of Jesus” had better be a good person. In fact, we’d all agree that such a person would have to be extraordinarily good. We might shy away from saying they have to be perfect, but we might as well admit that inside we are holding any person making such a claim to a pretty lofty standard. But Jesus, so it seems to me, would not have joined us in these thoughts. He thinks the primary point is about “believing.”
According to the Gospel of Mark, the very first expectation of Jesus for a disciple is this: “Repent and believe the good news!” To “believe” is to have “faith” and to “trust.” (Each is a translation of the same Hebrew or Greek term.) Faith and trust are what Jesus wants, and these express a relationship to Jesus rather than moral perfection.
. . . . If we describe a disciple as one who believes in Jesus . . . we also need to remind ourselves that believing is a dimension of love. This is clear if we substitute “trust” for “believing” or “faith.” Love and trust are constant friends. The Jesus Creed* calls people to love God (by following Jesus) and to love others. To follow Jesus as an act of love means to trust him.
The Jesus Creed is not a system for moral improvement . . . . But, a disciple is someone who engages Jesus as a person by trusting him, and because of that relationship, begins to live out the virtues Jesus talks about. It all begins here, in this order, and if it doesn’t begin here, it doesn’t begin at all.
* "Jesus Creed" is McKnight's term for Jesus' version of the Shema. See here for more.
(Image: by DistractedMind at flickr; some rights reserved)