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“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

There are a lot of wars going on. There is a war against terrorism.  There is a war against ISIS.  In some parts of the world, there is a war on women and girls.  But all these wars really stem from one war – the war that rages within ourselves.  Every day, we are at war against our base natures.  We are at war against our inclination toward greed, lust, dishonesty, and impatience.  We are at war against our own anger, apathy, and meanness.  We are at war against the unsavory aspects of our personalities that we need to gain control over.

That is why the short bible verse above is so powerful. Passive discipleship is not enough.  You can’t hum your way through your life and hope for the best.  Each of us needs to be active about our discipleship.  We have to depart from evil and do good.  We each have to seek peace and pursue it.

That means that we simply cannot react to what happens around us. We have to act thoughtfully.  Let me explain.  Most of us feel like we are good people.  I feel that way.  And as long as things are going well, I am an incredibly nice and generous person.  I am patient and easy-going.  But how I act when things are going well doesn’t mean anything.  The true test of my nature is how I act when things aren’t going so well.  Am I patient when someone is being rude or irritating?  Do I lust after material things, like a bigger house, a fancier car or nicer clothes?  Do I stand up and do something when I see injustice?  I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I pass those tests, and sometimes I don’t.

Active discipleship means that you do more than simply react to what is going on around you. It means that you intentionally commit yourself to do the right thing.  You decide to turn the other cheek, even when someone is cruel to you.  You choose to serve others, even when it costs you time or money.  You agree to be a peacemaker, even when you aren’t feeling very peaceful.

Active discipleship is a commitment that each of us needs to make every day until we die. That is because we will never fully conquer our base natures.  Of course, we can mature and grow in wisdom.  And with that, we become less susceptible to the unpleasant aspects of our human nature.  But as long as we are breathing, we will never be fully rid of the potential to be critical, unkind, judgmental, and cruel.

So how do we practice active discipleship? How do we control the base aspects of our human natures?  One way to pray.  Through prayer, God can help us gain control over ourselves.  If we pray before we act, God will guide us to be kinder and gentler to those around us.  When we pray about difficult situations, God will give us wisdom on how to deal with them.

Active discipleship also requires that we be brutally honest with ourselves. We all justify our bad behavior from time to time.  “I wouldn’t have said those things, if he hadn’t done X.”  “She deserved it.”  “I got mad because I was tired and having a bad day.”  “S/he is a bad husband/wife, so what else could I do?”  The list of excuses we make is a mile long.  If you find yourself falling into the trap of making excuses for your bad behavior, ask yourself this: Would you want your friends, family and colleagues to hear what you just said?  Would you want them to know what you just did?  If not, then you shouldn’t be doing it.  It is just that simple.

Moreover, active discipleship takes discipline. Self-control isn’t easy.  That is why it helps to surround yourself with positive influences.  Read books by people who inspire you to live a life that serves God.  Associate with people who hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior.  Listen to music and watch movies and television shows that have positive messages.  Fill your mind with what is good.

This week consider how you can commit yourself to a life of Active Discipleship. Are there ways that you can be more thoughtful about how you treat others?  Are there areas in your life where you need to consciously adjust your attitude?  Remember that while the work of Active Discipleship is hard, the benefits of maturing spiritually and emotionally outweigh that cost.

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