Why refer to the traditional disciplines of Jesus as the habits of Jesus? The word habit, as a daily behavioral pattern, is better understood and does not have all the negative baggage we often associate with the word discipline. Also, the word habit describes a behavioral pattern that is acted-out in a way that requires more than our conscious efforts (See the Appendix: Forming Habits). When we participate in Jesus’ seven habits it is Christ Jesus alone who empowers us to experience a new relationship with God and one another. We are acting out behaviors that don’t depend simply on our own efforts, but instead upon the transforming power of Christ’s death and resurrection within us. The Apostle Paul put it this way, It is no longer I who lives, but it is Christ who lives within me (Gal 2:30). To become more like Christ is not about trying to change our lives, but allowing Christ to exchange his life for ours (2 Cor 5:17).
Throughout the ages, Christians have participated in seven habits that were taught by Jesus, passed on to his disciples, and now given to us as a way to grow in our openness to Christ’s loving presence in our daily lives. These seven habits of Jesus have become the most important habits, or routines, in the daily lives of Christians. Martin Luther was a strong proponent of these seven habits and cautions us, not to make up new ways of being a Christian (LW 41, p.164). We are told, Take on a new life, a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside as Christ reproduces his character within us (Eph 4:22). This new life is what the Seven Habits of Jesus offers us. Although these seven traditional habits of Jesus seem to describe what we do, in reality, they describe how Christ effectively breaks into our daily lives to transform us into his disciples. We do not become the disciples Christ intends us to be by our mastery of the habits, or by anything we are able to accomplish on our own. Becoming a disciple is the work of Christ’s own Spirit within us, which gives us the capacity (ability) to recognize and participate in Christ’s mission to restore and return the creation back to its Creator.