In Matthew 9:9, Jesus saw Matthew, the tax collector, and said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed Him.
This simple word, “follow” has been used for a couple thousand years to represent what it is we do we follow Christ. If you were to ask most people in today’s churches if they follow Jesus, they would say yes! Of course that is whom we are following.
So what does it mean to follow Jesus?
The first thing that I notice is that the word “follow” demands movement. If you are following something or someone, then you are doing something. But following Jesus is often more noted by the things one does not do, than by the things one does.
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (NLT). Doing the things Jesus tells us to do is a distinguishing factor of a follower of Jesus.
It is often easy to equate being a “good person” with being a follower of Jesus. This happens when we look at our lives in a comparative way; “Well, I’m not as bad as that person.” But then, we are using our own standards, instead of God’s standards.
Jesus gives some very direct statements about what His followers ought to do. In His Sermon on the Mount, He said, several times, “you have heard it said” to do things one way, “but I say” to do things a different way.
One example of this is Matthew 5:38-42. “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (NLT).
These types of attitudes do not really fit into the way most people think, even “good” people and Christian people. If someone injured us, we would remove ourselves from harm’s way as soon as possible and maybe even disable the threat to protect further injury. If we lost a lawsuit, we would not offer one dime more than the agreed settlement.
If our government demanded something from us, we would not give anything more than was required, and we may even stand in opposition to giving anything to them for any reason. If someone asks us for something, we will often demand a good reason for giving it to them. If someone wants to borrow something, we will often put all kinds of conditions or interest on the loan.
These reactions fit into our lifestyle. The way Jesus tells us to respond does not fit. So how do we follow Jesus without doing what He told us to do? We cannot.
Following Jesus must be holistic. Jesus said, if we want to follow Him, we need to deny our self, daily take up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Denying self means turning from our natural reaction to things. Carrying our cross daily means dying to our selfishness each day. This is how we can truly follow Jesus.
And we can follow the ways He tells us to treat others. 1 John 3:18 tells us, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”
What are you doing to follow Jesus?