Through the Lens of Family Love

I get asked regularly, in some shape or form, questions like, “what do mean when you say disciple making?”  “What do you do in a disciple making relationship?” “Is there a certain book or study I should use?”  “How long does it take?”  

I completely understand those question and why they are asked.  They are not bad questions but maybe not the best “first” questions. I can’t cover every aspect of a discipleship relationship in a brief blog post but I can try to help give a lens to see it through. 

In a previous post, I gave this definition; Disciple Making is teaching people to follow of Jesus through intentional relationships of love so that they can go and do the same.

In the middle of this definition it says, “through intentional relationships of love”. Love, as the Bible defines love, should be the mindset of the discipler to the disciple. This is seen in Jesus with the 12 and Paul with his disciples such as Timothy. The challenge is that love is such a broad and even elusive thought because it is used in so many different contexts. But, when we look at how the Bible explains love there is another word that gives clarity. 

That word is “family”.

In the book When the Church was a Family, Joseph Hellerman writes, “No image of the church occurs more often in the New Testament than the metaphor of family, and no image offers as much promise as “family” for recapturing the relational integrity of first-century Christianity for our churches.”  When we take even a quick look at the New Testament, this truth comes to life. 

Jesus described His love of the disciples by saying, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”– John 15:9

Paul referred to Timothy as “my beloved son.”– 2 Timothy 1:2

Paul, Silvanus and Timothy described their relationships with the people in Thessalonica in this way, Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…..For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12

All of these passages and more are filled with the imagery of family.  We see terms like father, mother, children describing the intensity of their relationships and when family love is right, it is powerful. 

When we operate from the perspective of family, it changes the questions we ask. Here is what I mean; I have a wife and three children.  When I think about being a good husband and dad I don’t ask questions like, “how long will it take”“how often should we meet”, “what book should they read”,or “what do I need to do or get them to do.” But I ask, “how can I love them the best way possible?”  The specific answers to that question change all the time because life is always changing.  But, as I live out the answers to “how can I love”then I can determine more accurately the specifics of “what do I need to do”.

So the question to start with as a discipler is, “How can I love the person in a way that displays the love of Jesus.?”  From my experience, as I have tried to live out the answers to that question, everything else falls into place.  On the receiving end of this kind of love I can tell you it is life-changing.  

There is no curriculum that can replace the power of family love. 

As we enter into discipleship relationships we need to pray to see them through the lens of family love. As we do, there are some important implications to understand.

  1. Disciple Making is not a mechanical process of handing off information. It is a dynamic and even emotional process of deep relationship.
  2. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all to loving members of your family, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to disciple making.
  3. Because of the commitment that comes with “family love” you need to embrace being limited in the number of people you disciple.
  4. There is no end to love.  Even though the relationship will change over time, you never stop loving.

Loving, discipling in this way is a commitment but I also remember what John wrote, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth.”– 3 John 4.

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