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We are disciples in training

Chewbacca went to training with his human

People spend a lot of money on training their pets. Pastor Devin Smith believes that training has a lot to do with becoming a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

Pastor, Romeo UMC

How many of you out there currently have or have had a beloved family pet? Maybe it was a dog or a cat, a bird or a fish, or something more exotic like a snake or lizard of some sort.

People do love their pets, myself included. Part of that may have something to do with the fact that for the majority of the shutdown months, had it not been for our dog, Chewbacca or Chewy, I would have found myself in an otherwise completely empty building. Even as I record this he is in his favorite spot here right next to me just slightly pushed up against my leg. For as much of a pain as he can be sometimes, he has been here with me through the ups and downs of the past 18 months.

Just recently I read that it is estimated that over $100 billion was spent on pets in the United States in 2020. And while I’m sure a large amount of that went to providing for their needs — food and treats, vet visits, and ridiculous costumes for Halloween — there is one other
thing that I think a great deal of money is spent on for pets. That’s training.

It is the strangest thing, but those cute and adorable puppies that we love to see pictures of, left to their own devices they can become terror on four legs, can’t they? There is no limit to the things they will chew up, get into, and flat out make a mess of. That is why a portion of that $100 billion spent on pets goes to trainers and training facilities.

Dog training
~ courtesy Devin Smith

This week I saw a photo that made me laugh. “The little guy there told his dad that he wanted to learn how to train his dog and his dad said there were lots of dog training videos on YouTube. So here he is, showing them … to the dog!” If only it were that easy! I could certainly handle sitting the dog down in front of the screen and having him learn all those commands, all the proper ways to behave, that would be a training I could get behind.

But, of course, we all know that isn’t how it works. Not in the least. I have done those puppy kindergarten classes, and there wasn’t a TV screen in sight. Instead, it took hard work. It took consistency and repetition. It took effort to train the dog to know what was right and wrong, what he was allowed to do and what he wasn’t.

This got me thinking about our lives as Christians and our faith. How often do we allow it
to be something we attempt to learn from a screen, or maybe a book? Do we let our training
become static, something done before us, but not something that we are actively participating
in? What sort of example does that set for others?

This reflection led me to the text in John 13 about an encounter between the disciples and Jesus. Starting in John 13 verse 12 we read:

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he
said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and
Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have
washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an
example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants
are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent
them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Jesus then continues a few verses later in verse 34 saying:

34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

It is no surprise to see Jesus doing the work. We see it time and again in the scriptures when Jesus isn’t at all afraid to roll up his sleeves and get in there and do the necessary tasks. But in this passage, Jesus also reminds his disciples, and us, that he is expecting us to do
likewise. That our training, our growing and maturing in faith doesn’t happen sitting idly by.

We cannot learn all we need to from simply reading the book, we have to be willing to get out there and do the work. And just as importantly, not only will this help us grow, it will help others to know the love of Christ shining brightly through us for all the world to see.

So while it might be slightly ironic for me to write this as you are sitting reading or watching this on a screen of one kind or another, but I encourage you to get out from behind those screens. Get out from just reading the book, reading the training, get out there and do
the difficult work. Practice what it takes to train ourselves, to learn, to mature, to grow, to practice loving one another.

Stay safe, take care, and God bless.


~ Shared, with permission, from the August 4, 2021 blog by Pastor Devin Smith on Extraordinary Connection.

The Michigan Conference