Jesus’ Strange Choice of Disciples: Fostering a Gracious Environment for New Christians

Have y’all ever thought about how weird it was that Jesus chose the followers He chose? I’m sure as Christians in 2014, we can look back at the Gospel of John or read the book of Peter and conclude, “Umm… of course! Who else would you pick? Those guys were great!”

Sure, they were later… but not at first; far from it.

  • Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen, not theologians. I would have crumpled up their resumes and (maybe) sent them an email saying, “You have not been selected for the position of disciple of the Messiah” because, let’s be real, nothing in the “Related Experience” section of their resumes would have convinced me that they were worthy of the job. But Jesus likes to do His own thing so He went ahead and hired them anyway.
  • Then there was Matthew, the tax collector. Nobody liked tax collectors because they were sell outs. They were making a living off the Roman oppression of their own people. You can hear the crowd collectively booing them. But Jesus chose him.
  • Then Jesus kept the party going by hanging out with prostitutes as well. In today’s world, we understand that there is a negative stereotype against women trapped in prostitution so can you imagine what it was like for them in Jesus’ day? But He cared about them anyway.

Through all of this, we see how well Jesus reflects God, the Father. In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel was called to anoint a new King. While it made more sense to anoint a strong and mature man, God instructed him to anoint a young man named David who did not suit those standards at all. Even though there were other older, stronger guys, God knew the kind of man David would grow to become and that was why he was chosen.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (NCV)

Sometimes, we mistake where people are at for where they will always be. We forget that people grow and change. We forget that God molds the soul. We forget that God makes the spirit grow. If we were the ones choosing the disciples instead of Jesus, we might have  picked the Pharisees and the book would have been way shorter because they would have killed him, like, day one.

I seriously dig Peter. He did things no one else can ever brag about doing and that was because he was given the opportunity to walk with Jesus. He became his best self on earth because he was given room to be just that.

How often do we give people room to grow and change? I have found growth and repentance hard in environments where people give me grief for changing my mind or revising any of my views on life.

Jesus told a really awesome parable in Matthew that truly drives home this point:

Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do…”

Matthew 21:28-31 (NCV)

It’s in the bible over and over again that we can’t just be all talk. Who we are at out core matters more than what we say or even what we look like today. It’s is about worshiping God, not saying, “I will worship God.” We have to have actual evidence of growth in our lives. Can I just give a couple of examples?

We, the church, need to foster an environment where people can come as they are, have enough room to be themselves and grow and change without the fear of being judged or trampled on. Our hearts need to be places of grace. When we can master that, it will flow out into our environments and into our interactions with people.

If we choose to make our hearts places of machine-like repetition of gospel truths, we can create an environment where people feel like they have to come as perfect people or not bother coming at all. The sad truth is it would only be a reflection of how we already relate to God.

We must remember that this is a journey for everyone or we will only ever be what we are today. I don’t know about you, but that sounds mad unfortunate to me.


On Unity in the Church

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My dear friends, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to get along with each other. Don’t take sides. Always try to agree in what you think. Several people from Chloe’s family have already reported to me that you keep arguing with each other. They have said that some of you claim to follow me, while others claim to follow Apollos or Peter or Christ. Has Christ been divided up? Was I nailed to a cross for you? Were you baptized in my name?

When I started growing into my Christianity, it became clear to me that certain types of Christians didn’t get along with other types of Christians and vice-versa.

I moved around and attended a few different types of churches growing up. I’m thankful I got to see so so many different colors of Christianity. Some Christians danced and others didn’t; some believed you were not really a Christian until you got baptized as a mature person while others did a little sprinkle action on babies within days of their birth; some churches prophesied regularly as a part of the service while others did not even mention it. The list carries on.

It’s interesting. Sometimes the differences can even be beautiful. It is the same kind of beautiful I see when I visit a new culture. Each culture has beauty as well as ugliness.

Based on my various experiences, here are a few thoughts I have compiled on different worship styles:

I think some spontaneous worshipers could stand to adopt a few orderly practices. I think some methodical worshipers could stand to adopt a few charismatic practices. It would just widen all of our spiritual worlds. I feel like there is so much more God to discover if we walk over to the other side of the church (the body of people… not necessarily the building).

It seems futile to fight over whether God is more pleased with free expression or whether He prefers very organized worship. Some things are just not worth fighting for. We waste our time asking Jesus whether it is lawful to work on the Sabbath and eat with “sinners” rather than asking Him to teach us about love, justice, mercy or other higher things.

Recently, one of my old professors reminded me of something:

Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in America, a fact connected with one of our country’s greatest forms of continuing injustice. – Dr. Eric T. Weber (paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King)

If we want to separate ourselves, I think it is more worthwhile to disagree with someone on the basis of being mean-spirited rather than their music tastes. It is more worthwhile to distance yourself from someone who is selfish than to distance yourself from someone who prophesies simply because you don’t understand it (I have a lot to say about prophecy that will have to wait for another post because I think quite a few of us in the church don’t really know what it is).

We’ve become scared of each other. Rather than exploring each other and learning from each other, we’ve chosen to shut each other out. We’ve become afraid of hearing something new and experiencing something different. Are we so afraid for our faith that we believe a new experience will completely destroy it? If being part of Christ’s church is truly as powerful as we claim and God is real, then I think our faith should be able to stand even if we are exposed to foreign ideas.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


Don’t be afraid. Walk across the room, ask a few questions and learn more about God because I think that fear will rob us of experiencing our glorious, multi-dimensional God. We are many races and cultures and styles of people because God is not just one thing. We are all made in His image and no two people are the same because that is just how amazing God is. It takes billions of people to express all His different traits. Yes, we are broken, but He loves us all and wants to save us all because He breathed into us all.