27 March 2017

'A rescue is just the start'

In 2014 gunmen entered a small school in the village of Chibok in Northern Nigeria. The men were part of an Islamist group called Boko Haran, which roughly translates to ‘western education is forbidden.' That day, 276 girls were taken into captivity, many raped, married off and brainwashed. There are no happy endings to this story and today most of those girls still have not been recovered.

Stephen Davis, a negotiator and advisor to several Nigerian presidents was recently interviewed about his involvement in trying rescue the girls. It was a tragic discussion on their plight and I confess my first thought when hearing this story was how it would make a good illustration. And in that moment, I heard Jesus whisper, ‘where is your heart Scott, these girls aren’t some convenient illustration they are prisoners.’ How easily we forget the real lives behind the headlines.

I wonder if you’d pause with me a moment before reading on to think about those girls right now. Pray for them and their distraught families. Pray for their liberation and healing.


At the end of the interview Stephen’s last words were ‘When you rescue girls out of their captivity, a rescue is just the start. Then begins the long rehabilitation process.’

That’s not a bad description of what the bible calls discipleship. Discipleship begins in something like a rescue. Colossians 1:13-14 says ‘God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.’ (The Message Paraphrase)

But discipleship is much more than a rescue for some future heavenly state. No, Jesus’ greater ambition for our life is to look like him, flourish under his leadership and impact the world where you live. This part is considerably harder because there remains a lot of ‘dead-end alleys and dark dungeons’ in all our hearts. Or, as a good friend of mine said just the other day, we like to stay ‘stuck on the merry-go-round of stupid.’

I wonder, to what extent has the message and mission of Jesus been distorted and derailed over the centuries by an emaciated version of discipleship that starts and ends with a rescue, and disregards the ‘long rehabilitation process?’

Perhaps that’s why Jesus didn’t bypass the three years of training his disciples and just come for the cross. He would save them through the cross, but He made them before and after it. Jesus’ aim was not just to get them into heaven after they die but to increasingly think, feel and live like Him now.

There is an emerging truth in my life that is both old yet strangely fresh right now. Simply, to follow Jesus is to be a disciple. And to be a disciple is to become like Jesus in every way. To think, feel and live in the pattern of Jesus' life. There is nothing theoretical about discipleship.

It would only be a partial victory if the girls of Chibok were freed from their captivity and yet still lived in a prison of pain for the rest of their lives.  Likewise, the gospel announces we can be released from our prisons and step into a new life with Jesus. But that rescue is just the beginning and ahead lies a lifelong adventure in growth toward thinking, feeling and living like Jesus.

Does your life feel anything like a prison right now? Who can you tell?
If you are a follower of Jesus, what does your discipleship look like at the moment?
Can you think of one or two specific things that Jesus is currently working with you on?
If not, why not?