Tough-Skinned Discipleship


“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”  —  2 Timothy 2:4


If we are going to be exemplary disciples of Jesus Christ we must learn to develop a tough skin. Jesus himself was a mixture of tenderness and toughness, and unless we develop the same mixture we will either drift off into silly sentimentality or else we will become excruciatingly rigid.


Jesus never became toughened toward His Father’s will, but always toward the things or people who might prevent Him from doing that will. “He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). If we decide to follow Jesus we will be pulled in many directions, all for our “good” and to save us from ourselves. The disciple who does not deliberately develop a toughness will find himself too weak to resist the call to moderation.


Jesus also developed a toughness toward people, even His closest friends, whenever they appeared to block His path in doing God’s will. I think of statements like, “Get behind Me” (Matthew 16:23); “What is that to you?” (John 21:22); “Woman, what have I to do with you?” (John 2:4); “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8); and others like them and notice how stern Jesus sometimes sounded.


As His disciples, we must always be soft toward human need but incorrigibly tough against human shortsightedness. Who is shortsighted but he who, in the name of God, prevents me from doing the will of God? That is why we must always love our family and friends, but always keep a sharp eye on the one who would self-indulgently make our softness become downright sin.


Where does the strength come from to follow Him so closely? “Our sufficiency is of God,” Paul said (2 Corinthians 3:5). That was the sufficiency that enabled Paul to set aside his beloved obstacles and say, “I am ready not only to be jailed…but also to die for…the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).


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