Discipleship’s Resounding “Yes”

This semester I’ve been in two classes in which we have read and discussed Nietzsche (pronounced knee-che or knee-chee; it’s hard enough to spell let alone get into the debates about pronunciation). If you’ve heard of him (which maybe you’re not sure if you have because you’re still not sure how to pronounce that name), you know of him probably as a great Atheist, but to Christianity a bad guy.

From http://bit.ly/5z7Q6K

And make no mistake, Neitzsche is definitely a bad guy; his “will to power” shreds through any attempted morality and places the strong as supreme. But Neitzsche also may have some legitimate critiques of Christianity. Indeed, his view of Christianity is that the weak tell the powerful all these things you can’t do in the name of morality and thereby gain power.

This is a powerful construct because it seems like it could be plausible. Indeed this seems to be what happens in many churches today, as they disciple both new and old believers. Believers are given a laundry list of things that they can’t do – don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t party, don’t associate with “them” (whoever the “them” is in your context). It’s a discipleship that carries a strong “no.” And this is exactly what Nietzsche goes after.

Indeed, if we agree that discipleship is simply about the “no”, then Nietzsche’s battle is already won; if discipleship is really just about the “no”, then Christianity really is a weak system that attempts to protect itself by denying others the ability to do things that they really want. If discipleship is just about the “no” then we’re left at the cross.

Of course, there’s more to the story than Nietzsche sees. Jesus’s resurrection and the life that he lives transforms discipleship from being anything close to a “no” to a resounding “yes.” It isn’t an unqualified call to live life as you want, but it’s certainly not a “no.” When we realize this, suddenly “love your neighbor as yourself” and “pray for those who persecute you” begin to supersede the “don’t drink, don’t smoke” and yet recapture them even as we recognize the core of discipleship in the “yes”. It’s not a disregard of moral instruction but it’s a recognition of the vibrancy that the life of the disciple has within those moral boundaries.

Too many of us live our “Christian” lives hearing discipleship as a “no”. We get endlessly frustrated because we simply can’t seem to live up to discipleship’s standards and so feel like we’re never following Jesus. Yet discipleship is not about the “no”; it’s about the “yes”. It’s not just about what you don’t do but even more importantly about what you do do. Christianity isn’t just Nietzsche’s conception of a weak system that protects itself through denial; Christianity is a vibrant way of life that says “yes” to living well.

That’s a powerful reversal. As our culture continues to push back on the “laundry list of no’s”, we need to remember this: Jesus did it first. He pushed back on the “no” and declared a “yes” – a discipleship of action, that loves God and loves the neighbor.

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3 thoughts on “Discipleship’s Resounding “Yes”

  1. amen! the yes’s definitely out-way the no’s! not to the mention the fact whether you are an atheist, Christian, or anything else, there is always a belief system behind any form or type of religion. Atheism is the belief of there is no God, but they still have a set of beliefs and yes’s and no’s in their life as well.

    to set yourself apart from rules and laws is to be an anarchist, not caring about what happens to you or anyone else with whatever action you make or take. still, probably those individuals have a set of yes’s and no’s they believe in as well.

  2. Amen! Yet another “blog post I wish I had written” from you. After reading this my mind immediately goes to the historical question: when did “no” become the default for discipleship? But maybe it’s better to stop looking for a scapegoat and look at how these attitudes manifest in my own deeds and perspectives.
    It is a shame that in my history at least, the type of personal transformation that you’re arguing for has not been presented as intrinsic to becoming a follower of Christ. The vibrancy of the life of faith was eclipsed by the “thou shalt not’s,” necessary as they are. However, to know that God is remaking us into little Christs, into who we truly ought to be as God’s creation for his glory, that might help us put the no’s and yes’s in their proper place.

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