By Dave Steel
There’s nothing like a long road trip to create space to reflect. Recently, somewhere between Florida and Illinois, I found myself contemplating my discipleship to Jesus while the rest of the family passed the time in open-mouthed slumber or headphone-transmitted entertainment. (As the designated driver, these options weren’t open to me.) Something about that cross-country trip got me asking an introspective version of the question, “Are we there yet?”
Usually, when someone asks the Are we there yet? question what they really mean is, “Are we making good progress?” If the goal is to be like Jesus (Luke 6:40), then I know I’m not there yet. What I need to know is, Am I making significant progress toward the goal?
Taking this question seriously can be both difficult and disconcerting—difficult in that it can be a complicated question and disconcerting in that it inevitably strips away our self-righteousness. This should not keep us from facing the question, however. Sometimes we need to take stock of where we are.
While a careful study of Christ’s earthly ministry (such as the one undergirding the Get Discipled series) can reveal a detailed portrait of a fully trained disciple, there is one trait of a mature disciple that stands out among the rest.
When asked to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40). “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said “if you love one another” (John 13:35).
It is love that heads the list of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). In fact, the apostle Paul wrote a whole chapter on the priority of love (1 Cor. 13). “If I have a faith that can move mountains,” Paul says, “but do not have love, I am nothing” (v. 2). He concludes the chapter by noting that, “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (v. 13).
In light of such passages, a simple question emerges for assessing our spiritual progress: “Do I love others more now than I did a year ago?”
Am I becoming more patient and kind toward people? Am I less prone to envy and “one-up-manship” than I used to be? Am I seeking to honor others more and myself less? Am I quick to forgive? Do I bring the presence of Christ into my relationships? Am I faithful, thoughtful, hopeful, and loyal toward the people God has put in my life? Could my family vouch for this?
“Do I love others more now than I did a year ago?”
I know I’ve not arrived, but I’m finding that just keeping that question in mind is helping me to be more open to the spiritual progress I seek.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22).