“A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:39-40)
These words of Christ have been rattling around in my head the last day or so. Jesus spoke these words to His followers as part of a larger teaching known as the Sermon on the Plain. (from the statement of Luke 6:17) This sermon teaches disciples how to live for the kingdom of God, and part of that teaching is a stern warning about mentorship. We MUST be careful who we choose to be our “teacher,” because we will become like them.
When we see the word “teacher” in English it normally translates in our American minds into our favorite teacher in high school or Mrs. Kerfluffle from the third grade. However, in the context Jesus spoke this the term meant way more than that. The “teacher” that a student sat under was very important because the student followed the teacher around, emulated their way of life and their priorities, and became like them in many ways. What was important to the teacher had to become important to the student.
Roman culture was all about these kinds of relationships, and so was Jewish culture in this day. (Jews called these people Rabbi more often than teacher though) Probably the English equivalent that conveys the idea best is “mentor.” This was a respected authority that taught more than knowledge, but wisdom for living well. Students had to be very careful who they chose as a mentor, because they became like their mentor. We have it no differently today than the people Jesus addressed in Luke 6.
I am excited about this. I seek out mentorship and at the current time have two fantastic mentors. One was a professor that I had at Phoenix Seminary when I was a student there; I love him so much I just wouldn’t let him go when I graduated. His name is Dr. Fred Chay and I thank God for him on a regular basis. (the other is a great friend and pastor, Keith Krell, who deserves his own post!) He is a friend and a mentor in the true sense of the word and if I become like he is, then I am headed in the right direction.
Allow me to share a case in point of why I value my mentors so much and why I am excited to become more like them.
I had lunch with Fred on Monday, just to catch up and check in on how I am doing. We met at a local restaurant and had a good time talking church, school, home, theology, current events, and all that. He made time in his life just to see how I am doing as a person, as a disciple, as a husband, as a father, as a pastor, and as a professor. He asked deep questions, brought me a gift (new book!), and we had a great time. I asked him for some advice on a couple of pastoral issues I am facing and, as always, he gave me just what I needed to point me in the right direction.
That wasn’t even the best part, though! The best part was the way he led me without even trying to. Our waitress was a great young lady; she was attentive but let us have some privacy to talk. She got everything we needed and was fun. I joked with her a couple of times to be wary of Fred because he was mean, not because he really is but because he can come across as gruff sometimes. She was great, and then right when she brought the bill Fred gave her the patented Fred Chay treatment.
He started innocently enough by asking her about Christmas. Then he asked her whether she was religious. She said no, but she appreciated others who were. Thus began the grilling! He asked her what she believed, and when she said she liked some of what she saw in Hinduism Fred asked her a lot about that. He questioned her on reincarnation, on whether she liked the caste system, how we knew whether something is true or not, and everything in between.
She eventually said that she didn’t think about religion too much, but asked Fred what he believed. Here is where it got great. He said that at the end of the day we needed to accept that which has the best evidence of truth, and that from everything he could see nothing had the truth that Christianity has. At that point Fred very politely but very pointedly told her what the truth of eternal life in Christ is. His message was simple but profound:
- We are sinners who mess things up again and again. Whatever you want to call it, our world and our lives are messed up because we are not perfect.
- Jesus came to earth to pay for our sin. That’s what Christmas is all about; He came to earth not to be a good moral teacher but to be the payment for our imperfection. He died on the cross as our payment and rose again from the dead.
- Unlike Hinduism, Christianity doesn’t depend on our works or our ability to make God happy with our actions. Instead it depends on Christ and His ability.
- We receive the benefit of Jesus’ ability by trusting Him and His sacrifice for us. We do nothing but trust Him to make us right with a perfect God.
At the end of that, she was really intrigued. Fred didn’t have anything to give her to look into what he said more and unfortunately neither did I; so I gave her my card with my blog address on it. (if you’re reading, Jenn, then welcome! and watch the video above :)) She probably talked with us for a good five or six minutes during a busy lunch shift.
We finished our lunch and headed back to our lives, but I was at first troubled. Fred took the time to really invest in that young lady, but I can’t say that I would have been nearly so bold with her. I would have been polite and left her a decent tip, then never thought about it again. He really loved her by sharing Christ with her, while I would have let it go and never said a thing. How convicting! What a slap upside the head that I was living in la-la land, not thinking about the needs of this gal serving me lunch but just thinking about picking Fred’s brain. How self-centered and unloving of me.
Later, though, I began to get excited instead of upset. He picked up my slack, so that waitress could hear the truth this Christmas. He is also my mentor, which means that if I listen and heed his advice I will become more like him. I notice in Luke 6:40 it says that when I am “fully trained” I will be like my mentor, and all I see now is that my training is not complete; I am still his padawan. I have a lot of work to do to be like my mentor, but I thank God for him and for his influence in my life. He leads by example.
How about you? Who is your mentor? If it’s the media, do you really want to become like the media is: shallow, egotistical, and vain? Is it someone you know for sure has good roots and is going the way you want to go? Go looking for someone who has walked with the Lord for longer than you have and is “the real deal.” Sit at his or her feet and make sure that they are a person of integrity. Then learn from them and allow them access to your life to help you change for the better. Mentorship only happens up close, so you must allow them access and listen to them even when they try to help you smooth off some rough edges. If you do, maybe God will bless you with a mentor like he has blessed me with Fred.