After my last post, a Christian brother shared with me his struggle to faithfully teach grace to the folks he disciples. I certainly share in that struggle. I have often said that faithful discipleship is a narrow path between the two ditches of legalism and licentiousness.
Of course, I didn’t come up with that. The Apostle Paul had to deal with the same issues. On the one hand he had to warn the Galatians about the ditch of legalism espoused by the Judaizers. On the other hand he had to give an emphatic “NO” to those whose philosophy was… “let’s sin up a storm so that we can experience more of God’s grace.” The narrow path between the two ditches is narrow indeed and Christian history is littered with examples of how individuals (as well as groups of people) have fallen into one ditch or the other. Regardless of which ditch you fall into… you still end up dirty and smelly.
To my struggling brother, and as a reminder to myself, I offer some counsel I once heard. I take comfort in the struggle because the Apostle Paul experienced the same. Grace is a dangerous thing. I think if we faithfully and accurately teach the biblical doctrine of grace, there will always be the risk that someone might distort it in a libertine direction… just as a faithful and accurate teaching of obedience might lead some into the legalistic ditch. I guess, like evangelism, we are called to be faithful… even though we can’t control the results.
I think that those of us who take the ministry of discipleship seriously will always struggle. However, perhaps we can use this struggle between the two ditches… the struggle of the narrow path… to motivate us to be careful, loving, grace-filled, and faithful in our teaching, discipling, counseling, correcting, etc.
I know that walking the narrow path is hard enough for me… and I’ve been at it for some time. I can still remember the early days of my walk with Christ; I often found myself walking a little too closely to one side or the other… and sometimes found myself climbing out of one ditch or the other, cleaning myself off (actually, repenting… and begging for more of God’s Spirit and grace) and then getting back on the narrow path.
This reminder of my own history will hopefully encourage me to be patient with those whom I disciple… especially those who are just beginning their own way down the narrow path. Thank God for his ever-present grace!
Grace and Truth,