Inspired by Luke 3:1-18
“And the crowds asked [John], ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’” Luke 3:10-14 (NRSV)
In attempting to follow Christ, we often make lists of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors as part of our discipleship. A good Christian should do all ‘these’ things, but anyone who does one of ‘those’ things is not a good Christian, and is therefore not worthy of Christ’s love.
It makes sense to want some direction on how to be a good disciple; the problem comes when we get more focused on determining which behaviors are befitting of a disciple and less focused on being a disciple.
The crowds wanted to know what they should do, and John instructed them to share whatever basic necessities they had with the poor. The tax collectors wanted to know what they should do, and John gave them specific advice. He never told them it was sinful to be a tax collector; he simply told them to do their jobs with honesty and integrity. Same thing with the soldiers; do what you do with integrity.
All of John’s specific instructions centered on mercy, justice, and truth. Behaviors that demonstrate those virtues show good discipleship. He condemned greed, injustice, and coercion. Avoid those behaviors, and you’ll proclaim the good news of Christ’s love with your lives. That’s all it takes to be a good disciple.
It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
Let us pray. Lord of our lives, you love all of your people. Empower us to live lives of mercy, justice, and truth, that your love will be demonstrated to all. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.