Simply put, being a disciple of Jesus isn’t about behaviour modification. Christianity is not a self-help program to happiness or perfection. If that were the case, we are going to be failures, because I don’t know anyone who is sinless. Yet often our church culture pushes behaviour modification as the primary goal of our faith. We expect people and our society to accept our values as norms when they are not.
Reading the gospels I am struck by how often Jesus invited people to belong to him first. He entered into relationships with others, regardless of where they were spiritually or morally. He did not discriminate against what part of society they belonged to. He ate with people who were the outsiders of their society and befriended tax collectors, prostitutes, the despised rich (like Zacchaeus), or foreigners like the woman from Syria. Once they felt a sense that they could “belong”, Jesus then invited them to follow him, to “believe”. After they chose to believe, he would ask them to “become transformed” by the values he taught and demonstrated. These values are ones like sacrifice, sharing, compassion for the outsider and foreigner; patience, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. (Gal 5:22). This behaviour is an expression of living out the reality of God’s kingdom in daily life. It is also an expression of the abundant and fruitful life from the Holy Spirit living out in us.
Today’s story of Jesus calling his first disciples in Luke 5:1-11, demonstrates this process to belong, believe and be transformed by Jesus.