What is the most important help in “making disciples”?
The responsibility to “make disciples” extends “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20). We need every available spiritual means to encourage all believers to “obey all things.”
New believers retain their former personality traits. Some love to learn something new (Acts 17:21); others like the challenge of advancing beyond others (Galatians 1:14); still others love to fit into their new-found society and they eagerly conform (Acts 8:13), while the timid can be intimidated (Diotrephes did this, 3 John 9, 10). Playing on these natural traits cannot produce spiritual results. The Lord predicates discipleship on this condition: “if any man will come after me” (Luke 9:23). Hearts drawn to Christ by an all-consuming devotion gladly embrace all He commands (John 14:15, 23). Fostering devotion to Christ, coupled with patient, practical teaching, is essential to making disciples.
Must discipleship be “radical”?
Yes. The world, the flesh, and the devil unitedly oppose total commitment to Christ. Devotion that consistently follows Christ, learns of Him, and produces likeness to Him must be all or nothing. Mary’s alabaster box of spikenard was broken; no part of its precious contents could be retained for any other use (Mark 14:3). “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). On at least two other occasions, Luke points out that discipleship involves “forsaking all” (5:11; 18:28). Discipleship is immediate, total submission to Christ. Anything less robs the Lord of deserved honor and produces partial obedience at best.
Consider, however, Paul’s charging the Thessalonians to be occupied with their job, work diligently, and provide for their necessities (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12). Radical obedience is not irresponsibility. It does not produce an irrational lifestyle. We express this radical obedience by consistent, wholehearted submission to all the claims of Christ.
Considering Luke 14:26, does discipleship conflict with family responsibilities?
Disciples must obey “whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Paul states that his writings are “the commandment of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Therefore, Paul’s teaching that children obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1), that husbands love, cleave to, cherish, and nourish their wives (Ephesians 5:28-31), that parents provide for their children (2 Corinthians 12:14), and that all manifest the affection of brotherly love (Romans 12:10) cannot conflict with Christ’s requiring His disciples to hate their father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters.
Luke’s record of the Lord’s previous use of the word “hate” is in 6:27, where we are to love and express good will even toward those who hate us. Therefore Luke 14:26 cannot teach absolute hatred toward our closest relatives when we are to love even our enemies. The Lord’s next use of “hate” (16:13) pictures a servant with two masters. If both give him a command, his response will involve either love, holding to one (same word as “holding fast” the faithful word, Titus 1:9), or hate, being heedless (YLT) of the other. Loyalty and its resulting obedience are the issue. This is relative hatred. The demands of our dearest cannot rival our loyalty and obedience to Christ. The security and comfort of cherished relationships cannot compromise our commitment to Christ. But let us be assured that to act in loyalty to Christ is to do what is absolutely best for our loved ones.
How should a new believer deal with an unbelieving marriage partner?
Compromising the Lord’s claims helps neither partner. Obedience to the Lord is for our good always (Deuteronomy 6:24). Obedience and preference, however, are not the same. Attending the assembly’s meetings involves obedience (Hebrews 10:25), even if the believer is not yet in its fellowship . Attending a conference 200 miles away is preferable, but, if it causes marital conflict, it is optional. Not socializing with former friends in activities that are compromising to the Christian is obedience (1 Peter 4:4). Socializing with believers is preferable, but may be disobedience, not expressing becoming consideration.
Witnessing to the unbelieving partner is crucial (1 Corinthians 7:16). When the unbelieving partner understands the facts and implications of the gospel, the most effective witness may beliving (and praying) without preaching (1 Peter 3:1).
A Christian should be an improved marriage partner in words and actions and, more importantly, in the relationship itself -the emotional “connection.” The believer’s salvation means the couple cannot enjoy sharing spiritual fellowship, a most precious closeness; however, the believer’s new relationship with Christ teaches, models, and enables a closer marital relationship than was previously possible. The greatest challenge to a believer with an unbelieving partner is to learn, as a disciple of Christ, how to develop a more loving, self-sacrificing, considerate, secure, committed, transparent, and trusting relationship. This is what bonds a marriage and is truly satisfying to both marriage partners, whether believing or unbelieving. A believer may have to sadly accept the unbeliever’s choice to depart from the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:15), but applying Biblical principles makes this much less likely.