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Discipleship in the margin

The margin of your life.

"Are you going to evangelise with me on Saturday?" More than 15 years ago I was asked this question, and to be honest I felt guilty about saying 'no'. After all, in my mind this was the big assignment. Come on Mart-Jan, sharing the good news of Jesus, that is the most beautiful thing there is, isn't it? And of course it is.

I felt guilty mainly because I would be going against something that Jesus told us to do, and He was my Master, wasn't He? Isn't He in charge? Wasn't the great command in Matthew 28 enough?

"And Jesus came to them, and spoke with them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

And so I went. And - admittedly - beautiful conversations followed. It helped me enormously to come out for my faith in - and relationship with - Jesus. It gave me an enormous sense of belonging at that moment when we stood there together. It was a great success when someone wanted us to pray, or when an elderly lady gave an encouragement: "Good that you are here, the world needs it so much". Amen, sister. Amen!

I am a bit sceptical I have to say. Not because evangelising is not great, bringing the good news is the best thing there is. But what I missed was the context. Because all those people who received a tract, or all those people who heard a song we sang, where did they take it? The liberating thing, of course, is that the Lord uses it anyway, but I hope you get my point.

Evangelism outside the context of discipleship is not embedded in relation.

Making disciples is the great commission - and within that commission we share the good news.

It says so beautifully - "Go and make disciples", that is the great commission. Make disciples. And within that great commandment falls the command to evangelise, teach, baptise, and so on. So, go and make disciples.

And exactly making disciples did not have a big place in my life. Not consciously, anyway. I was not really busy with it. Discipleship in the margin of my life, so to speak. The margin, while it really is the big task for you and me too. Discipleship is center stage.

I'll just ask you the concrete question: how is it with you? What place does discipleship have in your life? On the margin? Or center stage and working on it every day? I realise more and more that churches / people struggle with this (and so do I), but isn't discipleship very simple? Not easy, but if we look at the example of Jesus, it's just inviting another person into your life, right? Want to know how I live my life? Come and see! (John 1:40) Come and eat, come and ask, come and enjoy. I don't have all the answers, but I do want to listen to you, and I want to share with you what I understand so far. Share your life. Life-on-life discipleship, whatever you call it, but Jesus' method should also be our method. "As the Father has sent me, so I also send you" Jesus said (John 20:21). Is it like that with you?

My prayer is "Father, help me to be like Your Son Jesus, to be like Him. Make disciples, invite, encourage and guide others along the way, follow Your Son Jesus together. Father, give me the courage to be vulnerable and to let the other look into my life, to take them along, to search together. And Father help me that my life raises the question, that my life is a testimony. That it does justice to who You are. Father, help me to be a disciple-maker."

The margins of society.

For 30 years we read little of Jesus. Of course, His birth and He comes around the age of 12, but then He disappears again for almost 20 years. The Son of God, hidden away, where was He? And when He does come, His mission statement in Luke 4 is breathtaking:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me; He has sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach liberty to captives and sight to the blind, to send the downtrodden to freedom, to preach the year of the Lord's good pleasure. And when He had closed the book and given it back to the servant, He sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.”

The poor, prisoners, broken-hearted, blind, defeated. Just a list of people. May I add to it? The refugees, the unemployed, the homeless, addicts, ‘welfare' mothers, and ‘missing-out-of-the-system' fathers. In Jesus' mission statement, they are central. Not surprising that you often see Jesus eating, talking and - I imagine - taking a walk with these people. This was His target group. And the 'saints' of that time labelled Jezus 'friends of tax collectors and sinners'. Drunkard and glutton. Would the people Jesus was dealing with be at home in our churches? Would they feel at home? Would they enjoy it there?

Discipleship in the margin. The Master Discipleship-maker Jesus spent a lot of time there. Shouldn't we be there too? Isn't it true that the Kingdom often breaks through first at the edges of society? On the margins?

I have a good friend who does this every day. Handing out food. A bicycle for a child without. A prayer for a sick person. A bag of groceries for a mother. A welcome for a refugee. Clothing for a family. Help to move house. A room for a young person. Encouragement for someone who is despondent. So cool. He is an example and inspiration to me.

And sometimes he speaks on Sundays. He lives God's word and he brings God's word. He speaks with authority and authenticity. Not because he is the best keynote-speaker, but because his life speaks. What he says he lives, he does. Often his words touch me and usually I think "you are absolutely right, this is what I should do more of". To the margins, the margins of society.

Another good friend of mine says "God's love is for everyone, but His preferential love is for those who need Him most - the poor and those is the margins.". I do understand what he means.

Both good friends hold up a mirror to me, do I also focus on the margins? Do I know them? Do I know where they live? Do I invite them in? Do I share my life with them? And how is it with you?

My prayer is “Father, Your Son lived on the margins. He did not shy away from the contempt that this would bring him, but He even found joy there. Father, help me. Give me the courage to follow His example. Father, let Your kingdom break through and set me to work, let Your will be done, not mine. Father, if Your Son turned to them, teach me also. Amen."


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