What is discipleship?
To begin looking at the topic of discipleship we must first define the term within both the secular and Christian senses. Within the secular world, a disciple is defined to be a “follower and student of a mentor, teacher, or other figure” and this gives us an image of what a disciple to Christ would be, but it is incomplete. A disciple in the biblical and Christian sense goes beyond being a follower or student, it is to actively imitate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Someone who shows no clemency(mercy), who is not clothed with the bowels of mercy and tears, no matter what sort of student he is in spirituality, such a one does not fulfill the Law of Christ” -Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome here so eloquently makes this distinction clear for us. Being a student of Jesus Christ is not enough to be a disciple. In James chapter 2, it says “Even the demons believe—and tremble!”. It is not sufficient for us to solely know of Christ and believe in His words. We must attain the virtues of Christ and participate in the life of Christ who not only laid down the path for us but is in himself the path to Heaven.
“For God it was too small a thing that his son should show us the way. He made Him of the way. The way by which you would go under His direction. The way you would follow.” -Saint Augustine
Jesus Christ was in Himself, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. Jesus Christ has showed us and exemplified every virtue that is necessary to be a true disciple of Him. Saint Jerome speaks of showing mercy and also tears, referencing to repentance. Christ Himself has shown us the ultimate act of mercy on the Cross and we pray in the Liturgy of Saint Basil “He was incarnate and became man and taught us the ways of salvation”.
Discipleship within my life in the Church
Discipleship is not solely a relationship between us and Jesus Christ, but it is also a key element in our relationships within the Church and the Church was built upon the seeds of discipleship.
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Amen.” -Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus Christ had disciples of his own throughout His time of preaching in the Gospels and instructed his disciples to make disciples in all places in order to build the Church we have graciously inherited today. Discipleship is so core to the Church and most importantly our personal spiritual lives. Each of us should have a mentor or elder in which we are a disciple of.
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” -1 Corinthians 11:1
Saint Paul clearly defines discipleship within the Church when he called the Corinthians to imitate him. Each of us should have a relationship within the Church we can call ourselves a disciple of.
How do we find a mentor in the Church?
A mentor to become a disciple of should have certain characteristics and traits. To begin, they should be someone who you see frequently and ideally serve with. An older co-servant would be a perfect person as they are interacting with you constantly and can be there to guide you and is working towards the same goal as you. This mentor should be someone who look at as someone who is living a healthy spiritual life. The Corinthians looked at Saint Paul as a model of Christ, so they imitated him, the person you choose you should look at the same way. This does not need to be a formal mentorship as well; you can lean on this person as you feel comfortable and model them within your service or relationship with them.
Being a disciple of Christ
Ultimately you are most importantly a disciple of Christ and this person you choose is solely a vector of Christ within your life. The greatest model and path to follow is the path of Christ, who this mentor will assist you in following within their personal journey as well. Being a disciple of Christ is the only true path to freedom and peace.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” -John 8:31-32