On Not Burdening New Christians (Sibbes)

The Bruised Reed (Puritan Paperbacks) Sibbes, Richard cover image When discipling and teaching new Christians it can be tempting to instruct them in our personal preferences, spiritual habits, and religious opinions.  For example, if someone really likes a certain translation of the Bible, she might want the person she’s discipling to really like that translation too.  Or, if a person is very passionate about a certain type of schooling for children, he might want the person he’s discipling to be passionate about that type of schooling as well.  One other example would be political opinions.  Sometimes Christians impose their political views on newer Christians they are discipling them.

I appreciate Richard Sibbes’ (d. 1635) wisdom on this issue:

It is not the best way to assail young beginners with minor matters, but to show them a more excellent way and train them in fundamental points. Then other things will not gain credence with them. It is not amiss to conceal their defects, to excuse some failings, to commend their performances, to encourage their progress, to remove all difficulties out of their way, to help them in every way to bear the yoke of religion with greater ease, to bring them to love God and his service, lest they acquire a distaste for it before they know it.

In other words, when discipling Christians we should focus on the clear truths of Scripture instead of our personal preferences and opinions – things that Sibbes rightly calls “minor matters.”  If we add our own opinions and preferences to discipleship training, it will probably either give the disciple a “distaste” for religion like Sibbes wrote, or it will make him or her a proud legalist.

From a different angle, this is the Reformation principle of “Sola Scriptura” applied to discipleship!

The above Sibbes quote is found in The Bruised Reed, p. 20.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002