God’s initiative of grace introduces us to a kind of self-discovery. First, God’s grace brings us into a community of faith, which I have called “the family of God.” Within that family, we discover that we have the opportunity to enter into a personal and intimate relationship with God that gives us a standing similar to that of adopted children. All that Jesus enjoyed as the unique Son of God becomes ours as we are adopted and become joint heirs with Christ. These divine initiatives remind us that grace is the central element both in our relationship with God and in our understanding of ourselves as God’s children.
The nature of grace is such that, once it is offered, it still must be accepted. Grace is not forced on us. God can offer us the support and blessing of a community of the faithful, but we must choose to embrace the community that offers to embrace us. God can offer us the privileges and intimacies of being a child of God, and the grace and love of that offer can transform the way each of us view ourselves; but that offer of a new relationship and a new status must be accepted.
The beckoning of God to us takes the form of an invitation to respond to grace. Words like “come” and “follow me” set the response to grace in the context of becoming a disciple of Jesus. We do not choose so much as we are chosen; but God’s choosing is an invitation to live, to learn, and to walk each day in the footsteps of the Son. Jesus becomes our teacher, our guide, our coach, our “big brother.” We become his students, his followers, his team members, his disciples. All of this is our response to grace. It is our RSVP to God’s invitation. It is our acceptance of Jesus’ call to “come and follow me.”
Ultimately discipleship is a response to Jesus’ invitation to “come and be like me” (Christlikeness). That ultimate goal begins in our repentance and acceptance of grace. In the days ahead we will explore discipleship’s beginnings (column 4 in the “Making Disciples” Chart) as answers to our fundamental needs (column 1) for discovering the full and abundant life that Christ offers those who follow him.