In the first few centuries A.D., Christians relied on the inner character of their leaders to determine the truth of what was being taught. They didn’t have a formal set of Scriptures to guide them, so when confronted with what might be heresy, they would ask which of their teachers had been taught by Jesus. Later, they would ask if their teachers had been with those who had been with Jesus, and so on. Their primary concern was whether their teachers had been actual disciples of Jesus or had been taught by a disciple of Jesus.
The concern of early Christians was more on the inner character and less on the teachings of the teacher. They were as concerned with who was teaching them as with what they were being taught. Their desire was to experience Jesus, their Lord, through their teacher.
Whose Disciple Are You?
Christians, by definition, are disciples of Jesus. We are either students who are apprenticed to Jesus or we aren’t Christians. It’s time we quit just talking about God and become true apprentices, genuine disciples of Jesus.
It’s also time we begin inquiring into the inner lives of those who teach and lead us. Do they have lives worth watching? By watching them, are we reminded of Jesus? Or are they distracting us from being his apprentice? It’s time we quit allowing Jesus to be watered down to the “Christ of Faith” so that there is no longer a normal, human life worth watching.
So, What Is a Life Worth Watching?
The redemptive life of Jesus is the guide in any age. Attempting to follow the life and character of Jesus was the goal of early Christianity. Such a goal goes far beyond today’s popular phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” Early Christians weren’t as concerned about how they should act in response to something as they were about the overall character of their lives. They knew their actions spoke louder than words. They knew that changing the inner character of the person is what Jesus was all about. They knew that salvation went to the very core of people, changing not only what they believed but how they lived.
Where do we find the clearest picture of a life worth watching? Look at Matthew 5-7, otherwise known as the Sermon on the Mount. In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard notes that Jesus places his sermon within the context of the common people around him. When he utters the Beatitudes, he is not giving laws for living as much as a welcome into the Kingdom of God of all of those mentioned in the Beatitudes.
So, a life worth watching is a life that welcomes and enfolds everyone, no matter how wretched or vile, into the agape love of God and bids them come and be an apprentice of Jesus.
Jesus – A Life Worth Watching
Their desire to experience and include Jesus in their daily lives explains why the very first Christian creed was “Jesus is Lord.” They saw in him a life worth watching. The best way they knew to incorporate his teachings into their lives was by remembering how he lived and trying to reproduce it. Thus, Christians were first called “followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2).
Such an understanding of Christianity was natural, since the primary way Jesus taught was by example. Jesus spent most of his ministry mentoring his small circle of disciples. He brought them into his life and role-modeled and taught by demonstration. He was more concerned with their inner character than with their cognitive learning. The goal of his training was to develop disciples who studied his life in order to live it, not learn it.
One of life’s most important questions might be asked at this point: Are we living so close to Jesus that if we invite someone into our lives, she or he will actually see Jesus in us? Are our lives worth watching?
1. Give some examples of how the way we live is as important as what we say or teach.
2. What are some hallmarks of a “life worth watching”?
3. Who are the mentors in your life who are most like Jesus, and how much time do you spend in companionship with them?
4. Do you have apprentices who are studying the life of Jesus in you?