“But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NLT)
“And the army is disciple(in)ed.” (from 24-7 Prayer ‘The Vision Poem’)
Although I am not keen on army metaphors for the church, I like the quote from the Vision Poem, because it imagines that part of being disciplined is being ‘discipled in’. A disciple or follower of Jesus is a person who cares about what Jesus taught with his words and his actions. Part of being a disciple of Jesus is submitting to his discipline. When my actions and words don’t match up with his actions and teachings, I welcome Jesus letting me know and correcting me. In part because I want to live my life how he taught, because I value that way of life. For me, Jesus’ way is THE way to life.
The word Paul is using in his letter to the Corinthians is παιδεύω (pronounced paideuó) meaning “discipline, educate, train, even chastise”. It’s a word that can be used in many contexts.
- Paideuó is what Pilate offers to do with Jesus (flog him) instead of crucify him (Luke 23:16). An extreme form of discipline clearly not viewed favourably in this passage.
- Paideuó is the word Paul uses to describe his religious training when he was a disciple of Gamaliel before he encountered Jesus (Acts 22:3). Paul seems to be using it in a generic sense to describe his education prior to encountering Jesus, with no direct indication of physical violence in this passage.
- Paideuó is the promise made to the wealthy, apathetic church in Laodicea as they are called to listen to Jesus knocking on the door, to invite him in to join their meal (Revelation 3:19-20). Maybe they were lacking a sense of the presence of Christ among them?
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is not threatening a flogging by Jesus, but rather is reminding the Corinthians that Jesus is the teacher and they are the students. And although Revelation was written much later than Paul’s letter, there is something in Paul’s letter about needing to remember Jesus’ presence at the meal when his disciples gather together in His name. Something I think the author of Revelation would have found something in common with.
Rebelling the Right Way
Jesus leads the rebellion. So rebellion is not a “bad” thing. It’s when I rebel against God that I run into problems. So what ways do I rebel against God? Am I prone to apathy? To not caring? To being so involved in my own routine that I forget that I am called to break from routine sometimes? That as a disciple I need to rebel and break free from ‘what we normally do’ and to discover God’s ways of doing stuff and try to live that out?
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was reminding them that the Lord’s Supper is one of those times to rebel WITH Jesus, to share a meal in a way that is different from how their culture told them that meal should go. Paul didn’t want them to inculturate the Jesus meal, but specifically was reminding them that this meal was counter-cultural. The Lord’s Supper was a direct challenge to the patronage system of the day that kept people indebted to the social hierarchy. It was a reminder that God freed the Isrealites from slavery in Egypt and God is still about setting people free so they can worship Him now. This meal is no ‘wake’. Jesus wasn’t dead. He died but is risen. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is still present with his disciples. Through his disciples sharing His meal, Jesus was still turning over tables.
So when I think of Jesus’ discipline, I remember that being disciplined is a part of being a disciple:
- A daring to be different (countercultural in a God-guided, relevant way)
- A willingness to be taught and a humility to learn
And the millions struggling to eat?
I’d like to think that I will hold onto the insights I’ve learned this week. That I will continue to hold people who are starving daily in my heart and prayers, and that I will continue to act in the little ways that I can. However, without being disciplined, I know that I will soon get lost in my culture, a culture which tells me it’s ok to forget ‘the poor’. A culture which constantly sets up barriers between ‘us and them’. So how can I remember? Jesus shared a meal with His fellow Jews to remember their story (Passover). A meal He transformed for His disciples to help us not just remember His story but ours today (Lord’s Supper, Communion). So how can I remember my brothers and sisters starving around the world? Same way we are encouraged to remember Jesus – through a shared meal.
Moving forward, except in times of illness, Thursdays for me will be Mean Bean day. Why? Because I don’t want to get lost in culture and forget. Why Thursday? Because that is the day the Tearfund project I visited meets and prays. I will do this until I am told otherwise.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me. When I last checked, there were over 700 people who participated in the Mean Bean Challenge. They and their sponsors raised over £130,000, meaning that 13,000 families will learn sustainable farming techniques this year. Awesome x