“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
At least, that is what people say. And for the record, it is probably a true piece of conventional wisdom.
This reality has gained new significance to me as of late, as it has deep significance to the Christian life. Permit me a brief explanation.
There are certain, unavoidable calls on the life of every believer in Christ Jesus. Some things are inescapable responsibilities of all Christians. They are the pillars of daily life in Christ.
It is for us, a call to total surrender. Every Christian is called to a lifestyle of service to Christ over self. Furthermore, every Christian is called to active participation in the local church. For, it is through service to our local church that we live in obedience to the previous call to service of Christ. Finally, all Christians, no matter rank, class, or position in life, are called to disciple-making.
Most often, at least in Baptist circles, this takes the flare of evangelism or “soul-winning,” as many call it. However, this idea of our responsibility simply being one of convincing people to walk an aisle of get baptized greatly undervalues the task to which we have all been called.
For, in the great commission, Jesus did not call his disciples to make converts but disciples. So, our task does not stop at getting someone to “admit, believe, and confess” as much of our contemporary evangelical literature would lead one to believe.
Instead, we are called to walk alongside people as they move from total darkness through conversion into a life of deeply-committed spiritual maturity. This is a call that does not take place in a moment, but over the long course of a relationship with someone. It takes years not minutes.
And we are all supposed to be doing it.
If you are a believer, and you cannot call to mind specific names of people that you are training up in Godliness, then shame on you. You are failing at a task to which all Christians are called. Even if you feel inadequate, that does not absolve your responsibility. It is Christ in you that does this work, not your own intelligence or good works.
That being said, it is in this disciple-making task that the truth of the above proverb really comes to life. For indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree.
As we step into the role of discipler, we must be aware of the intimate nature of this task. It is in this role, that we begin to speak into someone’s life, and often this reaches to the core of their emotional self. It seeks to weed out sin and darkness and replace it with holiness and light. What is more, the process through which this happens is by laying bare our own lives as an example. Discipleship takes the spiritual DNA of the discipler and seeks to transplant it into the life of the disciple.
This is why Paul can say with confidence to the Corinthians that they should imitate him. This is why Paul uses such rich language in the pastoral epistles when he talks to Timothy and Titus. His relationship to Timothy is not that of a boss, or a buddy, but that of a father. And, as another adage would tell us, “Like father like son.”
This certain truth of discipleship, that the recipient would take on the characteristics of the giver, should weigh heavy on every believer. For, as stated above, discipleship is an every-member ministry.
In my own life, I have watched as I poured into people, seeking to catalyze in them spiritual growth, and seen striking results. These results are, unfortunately, a mixed bag. For with spiritual growth also comes my failures and flaws. The areas of weakness in my own life often surface as weaknesses in the other.
The very areas where I do not love well and cut corners on holiness wind up being the struggles of the student. My deficiencies in worship are passed on to a new generation.
So then, does this truth that the apple does not fall far from the tree then cause us to throw up our hands on the pursuit of discipleship? Is the solution to remove ourselves from the equation?
Instead, we must realize that we are not an island. Despite our propensity to see life as our own individual pursuit, reality shows us that every decision we make helps or hurts those closest to us.
There is no such thing as an individual decision.
So, in view of our responsibility to those that follow us (our family, our children, our friends, those we disciple), we must take seriously Christ’s call to a life of surrender. We must dive deeply into Christ himself and allow the Holy Spirit to work out in us our sanctification. We must allow the truth of the gospel to sink into our lives, so that it can tear away our sin. Otherwise, we will pass those very sins on to the next person.
After all, those we love depend on it.