Following Jesus . . .
March 19, 2023
Most Christians know the song “I have decided to follow Jesus.” The Sunday School classic is about leaving old worldly ways behind and choosing to follow Christ. “Though none go with me, still I will follow,” one line says. “The world behind me, the cross before me,” says another. “No turning back,” it concludes. But what does it mean to follow Jesus?
In our social media age, our understanding of what it means to be a follower is quite hollow. Afterall, a follower could be someone who subscribed to a blog, channel or whatever, at one point but perhaps only occasionally keeps up with the “leader” (or influencer). It may be someone who receives updates but has learned to give them a quick glance or ignore them along with all the other updates from all the other leaders competing for an ear. Sometimes the thousands of followers are not followers at all, just bots, or those who joined the leader briefly for the entertainment value of the moment. This was not the type of following Christ had in mind.
When Jesus asked people to follow him, he made it clear that he didn’t just want more from his followers, he wanted everything they had. He was asking for nothing less than their very life—all of it (Matt. 16:24). There could be no competition; it was him or whatever else an individual was chasing (Matt. 19:21). It could not be both. He wanted total commitment because he knew that following him would require it. He asked would-be followers to shake off all encumbrances because he knew they would not be able to go far with them; the commitments and responsibilities that came with discipleship would only get harder. People, at various points, understood his demands and many walked away (Jn. 6:66; Matt. 19:21-22). For his part, he was okay with having a few “all-in” followers.
The following Jesus had in mind is multidimensional. It is following as a slave does his master, ready to do whatever he asks no matter what; as a student follows a revered teacher, attentive to his words and diligently learning his ways; as a soldier follows a captain, obeying his commands and not doing his own thing; as a citizen follows the laws of his country, internalizing and living by the values and standards of Christ’s kingdom despite pressures to do otherwise; as a child follows her mother, aware that he is our keeper; as a sheep does a shepherd, looking to him for guidance each step of the way; and as a lover in pursuit of his love, relentlessly.
No turning back.