One of the primary points Jesus stressed when calling his disciples was that following him would not be easy. Following Jesus would be filled with challenges that would only be overcome by God’s intervention and the disciple’s faithfulness during the tough times.
To follow Jesus and live into what he expected of them, the disciples would have to practice radical faith by trusting that God would take care of their needs while they were obediently following Jesus’s lead.
This meant that if they were going to answer Jesus’s call to follow, they would do so while committing to live without the safety or benefit of being able to provide for themselves on a regular basis.
According to Jesus, God would provide for them through the hospitality of those with whom they shared the gospel message because God would open those people’s hearts to help them. I think that we can all acknowledge that this type of dependence on the kindness of others stands in stark contrast to the values we hold dear in the 21st century America.
I think that Jesus’s words were not only for the disciples, but also for the onlookers and listeners who would not be actively going out sharing the gospel message like the disciples did but could still play a significant part in the process of supporting the furtherance of the gospel message.
As Jesus was seeking active disciples, he was also seeking for what could be called passive disciples. People who would not necessarily be on the front lines doing the work of the gospel but would be behind the scenes ensuring that those who were on the front lines had what they needed when they needed it.
In many ways, these passive disciples would be just as important as the other disciples because they would be the ones taking care of the disciples and providing them with food and resources that would allow them to share the gospel uninterrupted.
These passive disciples would be so important that Jesus said that they, too, would be rewarded by God for obediently living into their calling to support others. They all did not have to commit to traveling from town to town with the message but could fulfill their calling to follow Jesus by supporting those who were traveling. Their hospitality to others would be an indication of their discipleship.
What this can mean for us in the 21st century is that not all of us are called or able to be on the frontlines of service for God’s kingdom. But that does not stop us from being able to make a significant contribution in our own way. We all have the privilege of supporting those who do the more out-front work.
Our willingness to help others and provide active support to them as they seek to live into their calling of following Jesus and sharing the gospel message often says more about how we view Jesus and the message of the gospel than what we say we believe.
Terrell Carter is vice president of community life and chief diversity officer at Greenville University in Greenville, Illinois, community team leader for Churchnet, and pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Churchin Webster Groves, Missouri.