Discipleship: Celebrating Diversity
Discipleship is the new number-one focus of the United Reformed Church, with the tagline ‘Walking the Way: Living the Life of Jesus Today’. This focus might look different in the diverse contexts of the local church. In the Church of God, however, which is called to move towards God’s realm of justice, peace and reconciliation, diversity is key to discipleship. So what does diversity in discipleship look like? Alex Clare-Young explores this in the final blog of the Discipleship series.
1. I am Walking
Jesus calls us to be ourselves. ‘Authenticity’ is a buzz word which many hate, and many love. But, ultimately, it is the calling to discipleship. Jesus calls people into relationship with each-other, but only after transforming the self. Changing names, like Peter’s, changing hearts, like Zacchaeus’s, changing relationships, like Mary and Martha’s. Jesus is an agent of powerful change that starts from within. If we are called to celebrate diversity, we must start by accepting and celebrating ourselves, despite and even because of our imperfections. You are loved by, and called to walk with, the one who meets us on the way.
2. They are Walking
Jesus calls us to walk with ‘others’ who are radically different from us. He doesn’t call his disciples to follow a list of rules. Rather, he calls them, God calls us, to fish for people. In Jesus’s day, the ‘others’ were tax collectors, prostitutes, women, the physically and mentally unwell, the polyamorous… Who do we ‘other today’? Who does Jesus call us to walk with today? Perhaps we ought to start with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer folk who are turned away from the closed church doors, bullied, assaulted, marginalised, criminalised, and even murdered in many places throughout the world… Jesus us calls us to walk with, and learn from, all people, especially those who are different from us.
3. We are Walking
We are called to walk as one. Unity in diversity is a key tenant of the Christian faith. No-one should be alone here. Jesus calls us into relationship. God’s reign is close at hand when people with wildly different identities and viewpoints talk and laugh and cry together. Jesus’s Spirit is in the conversations that bridge gaps of understanding. The journey of discipleship is not a solitary discipline. Rather, we are called to meet each-other on the way.
4. Walking with Love
We are called to walk with love. Hate is never acceptable. Love does not mean to tell people how to behave. Love does not mean to convert everyone to one understanding of God or of life. Love does not mean to be nice to oppressors. Rather, love means to behave in ways that liberate the oppressed. Love means to tell our stories openly. Love means to break the chains of empire. We are called to walk with, in, and through love.
God give us the courage to love ourselves, so that we might love everyone we meet. God give us the compassion to love those who hate themselves, so that they might know their own beauty. God give us the resilience to speak the truth in love, tearing down the walls that divide and conquer. God give us the wisdom to act, rather than to merely speak, to embrace, rather than to merely tolerate, and to love rather than to merely accept. May it be so, Amen.
Alex Clare-Young is training for ministry in the United Reformed Church. They also work as a pastor, educator and activist with and for those who, like themselves, identify as trans. To read more about Alex’s work, or to work with them, please visit www.transgenderchristianhuman.com.