To Be a Follower (not an admirer)
When Jesus concluded the “Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew records that “the crowds were amazed at His teaching….” But Jesus is very clear with His words at the close of the “sermon.” He was not looking for people to be amazed at His teach; He was looking for people to put His words into practice. He was not looking for admirers but for followers.
Soren Kierkegaard puts it this way: “It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression ‘follower.’ He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for…. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. No, no. The follower aspires with all his strength to be what he admires.”
Mark Labberton adds, “Jesus does not say, ‘Believe me,’ but rather ‘Follow me.’ If we are going to pursue God’s call, it’s an act of trusting and following—of behaving and living in ways that reflect our life and purposes. We aren’t saved by our actions, but we are saved for our actions to become those that make God’s life in Jesus Christ visible.”
An old story is told about a new minister in a small town. One afternoon he visited the home of one of the parishioners while the husband was away at work. When the husband returned home and the wife told him about the minister’s visit, the husband asked, “What did he say?” The wife replied, “He asked, ‘Does Christ live here?’ I didn’t know what to answer.”
With a flushed face, the husband asked, “Why didn’t you tell him that we go to church and say our prayers and read our Bible?”
The wife answered, “He didn’t ask me any of those things. He only asked, ‘Does Christ live here?’ and I didn’t know how to answer that question.”
That’s the critical question for us: Does Christ live here? Can His life in us be seen in how we work and play and interact with others and conduct ourselves in public and in private? Do I merely admire Him? Or do I follow Him?
Bill Donahue points out, “The English word obey means ‘to hear toward’ or ‘to submit to the control of,’ which is why we can obey our passions, our instincts, our conscience, our teachers and so on. When we obey God, we place ourselves under the authority of God and we listen to His voice. As a result we feel His love.” (In the Company of Jesus, p. 157)
That’s what Jesus wants for us. He wants us to listen to His voice and to put His words into practice, and, as a result of that, to feel His love. Jesus compares this to building one’s house upon rock. Such a life will withstand the toughest storms of life.
Gracious God, I admit that I am inclined to be an admirer of You rather than a follower. I am inclined to prefer a faith that looks for blessings to be poured upon me rather than a faith that calls for sacrifice from me. But I want a faith that is real, and a faith that is real involves putting Your words into practice. So I pray for You to help me to be Your follower rather than Your admirer.