Admirer or apprentice?

May 8, 2011

I posted the following on my facebook status: Penetrating question: am I an admirer or an apprentice of Jesus? Within about a nanosecond of posting the thought, at least two people commented and tried to deconstruct it. Yes, I have opinionated fb friends, don’t you? They made some good points, but I’m sticking with the question. [Note: I recently read Alan Hirsch write refer to “admirers of Jesus” (in distinction to disciples) and I believe it’s Dallas Willard who uses the term “apprentice” to refer to discipleship).

I’m pretty good at admiring people, at least in the sense we popularly use the word. There is a distance implied in admiration. I might admire, say, a writer but in that admiration there is often little more than an abstract and theoretical assent that this is either a good person or a person who does good work.

Apprentice, on the other hand, has a much greater degree of connection or intimacy. If you’re an apprentice, it is sort of assumed that you admire the master craftsman from whom you’re learning a trade or craft. There is, however, a great deal more than admiration. There is emulation, a striving to learn the ways of the master and give expression to them in a way that honors his craft and is yet also a unique expression of the artist himself.

I want to have this relationship with Jesus. I want not only to admire him, but to use the gifts he has given to me (the means of grace and the spiritual disciplines) to learn and walk in his ways and thereby to give expression to my identity, which is itself a gift of God.