#LentTogether: The Cost of Discipleship, in Community

#LentTogether: The Cost of Discipleship, in Community

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Guest Post by Dominique Dubois Gilliard for the #LentTogether Blog Series on Behind the Books

Lent is a season of preparation. It is a liturgical period of time where we soberly look towards the cross and consider the true cost of discipleship. It is a time during which we remember that we were bought with a price and acknowledge that our lives are not our own.

Within his seminal text The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer prophetically proclaimed, “When Christ calls a man [sic], he bids him come and die.” But, all too often, we try to elude death and live the Christian life as modified versions of our old selves rather than as new creations. To faithfully follow Christ, we must let go of the wheel, surrender control, and fully entrust ourselves to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

So, as we enter into this Lenten season, let us do so acutely aware of what it means to follow our crucified, and risen, Savior in the midst of worldly empires. To follow our Messiah—who came into the world in human flesh, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, amid the most powerful empire the world had ever known up to that point—was, and still is not, an easy task. Faithfully following Jesus requires us divorce ourselves from the patterns of this world, and fully submit our lives to the lordship of Christ. This is something that we cannot do in our own strength, nor in isolation. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit, and likeminded community who will encourage us along the way, keep us accountable as we embark upon the narrow road, and who will remain steadfast, even as we stumble, fall, and get it wrong.

I find Michael J. Gorman’s framing of the Christian life to be particularly helpful during this season. In his book Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross, Gorman writes, “The cross and resurrection both motivate and shape daily life. The appropriate life ‘for’ or ‘toward’ Christ is the cruciform life. Life ‘for’ Christ, is simultaneously life ‘for’ others. . . because the cross and resurrection were for others.” As we reorient ourselves towards Christ in this season, we must remember that reorienting ourselves towards Christ, tangibly and fundamentally means reorienting ourselves towards our neighbor.

Philippians 2:1-5 elucidates this so eloquently:

 “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

As we surrender to the Spirit and grow in Christlikeness, we must also take the scandalous nature of Jesus’ faith seriously. Jesus did not live a nice, neat, organized life that aligned with the interest, practices, or traditions of the religious status quo. He conversed with a defamed woman in broad daylight; in a public place, he communed with the socially stigmatized (sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes), and he advocated for grace when a woman broke the law and her offense warranted capital punishment. Jesus’ countercultural life of faith, expressed in love, threatened the status quo of both the imperial powers and the religious status quo, and it ultimately cost him his life.

This Lent, what would it look like for us to press into following Jesus in these ways—traversing socially accepted boundaries of belonging, intentionally choosing to commune with the socially stigmatized, and advocating for a more restorative criminal justice system? Lent must be more than giving up coffee, sweets, or social media for 46 days. It must be a season of preparation. It must be a time of spiritual formation. A period, where in community, we calculate the cost of discipleship, and live into Jesus’ call in Luke 9:23-24 in which he declares, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

About the Author

Dominique Dubois Gilliard Dominique DuBois Gilliard is the author of the new book Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores and the director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). He serves on the boards of directors for the Christian Community Development Association and Evangelicals for Justice. In 2015, he was selected as one of the ECC’s “40 Under 40” leaders to watch, and the Huffington Post named him one of the “Black Christian Leaders Changing the World.” An ordained minister, he has served in pastoral ministry in Atlanta, Chicago, and Oakland.

Recommended Reading

These books all consider activism in community—and using spiritual practices to center your work engaging with those around you.

Pilgrimage of a Soul by Phileena Heuertz

Faithful Presence by David Fitch The New Parish by Sparks, Soerens, Friesen



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