In my last post, we talked about the irreducible minimums of discipleship: allegiance, obedience, and trust. Today we'll explore the heart of discipleship, the soil out of which allegiance, obedience, and trust emerge. It all starts with a question Jesus posed to Peter not long after His resurrection: “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?” (John 21:15-17). In the span of three verses, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times: “Do you love me?” Jesus doesn't bring up the fact that Peter had denied Him three times. He doesn't excoriate Peter for deserting Him. Why? Jesus wants Peter's heart. Jesus knows that whatever captures our hearts has the power to direct our lives.
Wholehearted devotion has always been the issue with Jesus. He wants to know if we love him, if we're all in (Luke 9:57-62). That's the heart of discipleship. Allegiance, obedience, and trust are love's offspring, the fruit of an interactive relationship with Christ. When our love for Jesus is languishing, discipleship can feel difficult and burdensome; Jesus's directives can feel heavy and hard. But when our love for Jesus is flourishing, we experience discipleship as easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30). Difficult, burdensome discipleship shouldn't be the norm. When it is, it can be an indication that the person we're following isn't Jesus. Remember: Jesus promises rest.
The resurrected Christ is still asking the same question today that He asked Peter nearly two thousand years ago: “Do you love me?” Discipleship is relationship. It's keeping company with Jesus; it's staying connected to the Vine. It's acknowledging that you can do nothing without Jesus (John 15:5). And it's coming back to the same question again and again and again: “Do you love me?” Once you answer that question in the affirmative, everything changes, and the real journey begins. All that Jesus wants to accomplish in and through you hinges on whether or not He has your heart. He wants to know if you're all in. He wants to know if you love Him. How will you respond?