“Follower of Jesus” is the new cooler way to say “Christian”, a word loaded with centuries of baggage that no longer seems very Christian. Yet, “follower of Jesus” sounds a little smug to me. It reminds of those church-goers in ancient Corinth who weren’t in the camp of Paul or Apollos; they followed Jesus. Smug.
However, trying to figure out just what it really means to follow Jesus is something that merits careful consideration, especially, because it so misunderstood.
Following Jesus in his day meant just that. That’s how the cream of the crop, the young people with the most potential were educated. They followed their Rabbi for years. They lived and traveled together. The kids who were not the best and brightest, learned a trade.
There are no rules for following Jesus, you just stay with him. Watch him. See what he does, how he responds. Watch what he does when he is stressed.
He took his followers to the darnest places. Think about where they wound up as they followed Jesus. You might find yourself in some of the same places. You might wind up…
- At parties with the most notorious people in town
- At the graveside of a dear friend
- At the public forum butting heads with powerful people who can put a contract on your life if they disagree with you
- Playing with children when you wanted to be all serious
- Listening to what he says as people are preparing to stone a woman to death who was caught in the act of adultery
- Hanging out with whores who are attracted to him
- Chatting with corrupt government officials and corporate fat cats
- Panicking in the middle of nowhere with thousands of admirers, but no food
- Listening to great stories
- Watching the crowds thin and some of them turn against him
- Breaking lots of stupid rules that misrepresent God and hurt people
- Seeing amazing things that remind you you’re walking with God
- Running for your life as your leader is betrayed and tortured to death
- Running to a cemetery checking out an unbelievable rumor
That’s where we go when we walk with Jesus. We will be a thorn in the side of some powerful people, a friend to some powerless people, someone who is fully alive in the moment that sees God everywhere, a lover of all kinds of people, who finds himself in all types of weird, new situations.
Jesus likes to put his followers in new, challenging situations and then, afterwards, discuss what they have learned.
Oh, I forgot to mention that to be a good follower of Jesus you need to read your Bible more, pray more, never argue with your wife, have beautiful, completely compliant children, never miss Sunday services, tithe, take classes on how to be a better Christian, keep a beautiful lawn and home, and spend all of your free time in church activities.
Maybe I didn’t forget to mention it.
I used to care more about that kind of religious stuff than simply following Jesus, but that stuff always seemed separate from regular life. So, now I am trying to jettison religion and merge faith and life together to live a more integrated, true, whole life.
People have all different ways of following Jesus, but a lot of us are trying to find a stripped down, raw and real approach that makes sense.
Following Jesus means doing the kinds of stuff he did, turning love into action.
Reminder to self: Watch, learn, reflect, mimic. Never let him out of my sight.
Excerpted from my book, An Irreligious Faith.
From the archives. Originally published July, 30, 2012.