Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Creation, Destruction and Discipleship

It is always easier to destroy things than to create them. Creativity always takes longer than destruction.

I heard these comments in a workshop I attended recently. I thought about the implications of this observation and how we, as a culture, put so much emphasis on productivity. Creativity seems to me to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from productivity. Maybe that is why we tend to be destructive—to ourselves and to others. It is what is rewarded, because productivity is more akin to destruction than to creation.

Think about what it takes to bring a baby to birth. It’s a nine month process just to get a baby to the point where it can live outside its mother’s womb. It is even longer before the baby grows up enough to be able to take care of its own needs. While creation arguably takes more than the nine months prior to birth, death can happen instantly.

Because creation takes time, it also requires patience. But in our culture, we want instant, and instant means that creation may not get the time and attention needed to take root and flourish.

This is true with discipleship. In the early church, those who wanted to be baptized and join the church went through a season of preparation, usually during Lent. That time of preparation gave time for a person to learn about God and themselves, and to recognize that they were only beginning a faith journey. Baptism was not the end of the journey, but only the beginning.

Contrast that with the way many of us view baptism and church membership today. It’s an instant process, consumer oriented, and often seen as the end rather than the commencement of a lifelong journey of discipleship. As a result, some in the church think that discipleship is defined as membership and nothing more.
When church is something we consume rather than the place where we learn to pour out our lives in sacrifice, then the level of commitment to a church family is low. If you can’t consume what you like, you leave and go where your “needs” are met. I read somewhere that church is the one place where you learn to work and live with folks different from you. That’s one way of learning discipleship. Learning to forgive, to be patient, to put others ahead of self, to give, to be accountable, to be humble—these are all lessons learned best with those who are different than us. It is when each of us rubs each other’s raw and sharp edges that we learn discipleship.

In a sense, there is destruction involved in creation. The old must die for the new to be born. The consumer mentality must die for the sacrificial mentality of discipleship to be born. Just as we see the pattern of death and resurrection in Jesus, we also must live into that same cycle of death and resurrection if we are to grow as disciples.

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