Author: Ron Graham
The Disciplined Individual
—Individualism, discipleship, initiative
As disciples of Christ we are unique individuals free to live as we choose. We learn from Christ the right way to do this.
Most people consider themselves unique individuals, with the right to do their own things without undue interference from others. They want to be as free as possible from rules and restraints.
I imagine that you wish to live your own life; seek your own experiences; develop your own talents; learn by your own mistakes; compete on your own terms; find your own values; and enjoy your own rewards.
Of course you don't expect this ideal individualism to be fully satisfied in this world. It's not the point of your life on earth to be an individual. The point is to use your individuality to achieve some service to God and your fellow human beings “in holy conduct and godliness” (2Peter 3:11-14,17-18). That takes discipline.
As disciples of Christ, we value the freedom Jesus allows us. Yet we don't resent being subject to him and his commandments. "This is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome" (1John 5:3).
An executive in a corporation, a player on a football team, an architect designing a city square, a chieftan presiding over his village —all these express their individuality and personality. Yet they also are very disciplined. The more respect they show for the rules and principles of their disciplines, the more freedom of personal expression they are granted.
The “virtuous wife” in (Proverbs 31:10-31) is characterised by individualism and personal liberty —not because she isn't subject to her husband, but because she is! He doesn't interfere with her doing her own thing, because she ensures that she is doing the right thing.
Discipleship is nothing without the discipline of self.
One of the most quoted and discussed passages on the discipline of disciples is the following...
¶“15If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private. If he listenens, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more brethren with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the congregation. And if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, let him be to you as a Gentile or a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17).
Notice what is happening here. There is a lack of initiative on the part of the wrongdoer. He should, in the first place, have recognised his own sin, repented of it, and confessed it to God (1John 1:9-10, 2:1-2). Then nobody would have to reprove him. Or if he needed private reproof, that should have got him to take back the initiative and set the matter right.
The disciple who takes initiative and responsibility regarding his own conduct is practicing individualism, is he not? If others have to intervene and impose Christ’s discipline on him from outside his own initiative, then he has compromised his individualism.
Paul summed up this initiative when he wrote...
- “Let a man examine himself... for if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1Corinthians 11:28,31
- “Test yourselves whether you are in the faith. Examine yourselves” (2Corinthians 13:5).
- “Let each man examine his own work, and then he will have gladness in himself alone, and not in another” (Galatians 6:4).
Whilst disciples of Christ certainly help and encourage one another, they are first of all individualists who take the initiative to discipline themselves and be faithful to Christ’s word.