What does it mean to follow Jesus? I mean we all know Jesus said follow me. But what does that mean? How can we follow God?
When asked most Christians would say that they are following Jesus. They would say that an integral part of their faith is following God. But often it seems like those are only words, doesn’t it? Few Christians actually take actions, take steps, to follow God.
And listen, I’m not saying that as an indictment on you. I see that attitude in me. I’m quick to say I follow God, but my actions don’t always show that. It’s easy for us to say we are following Jesus. But it’s a whole other ballgame to actually do it.
But I think Jesus actually meant for us to do. I think He actually intends to be participants and not just spectators. I think Jesus wants us to actually be His hands and feet and not just give lip service. I think following Jesus means we actually have to do something
Following Jesus isn’t about the words we say, rather it’s about the steps we take.
Let’s take a look at what steps we should be taking and why it’s important.
What’s At Stake When We Follow God
The term Christian came around as an insult toward the early Church. It literally meant, little christ. It was meant to be a jeer to those following Jesus. But it stuck and ended up being a fitting name.
Christians should in fact be little christs. We are, after all, His hands and feet. As followers of Jesus, we represent Him to those around us. What we do, what we say, tells others something about God. Good or bad. Let the weight of that responsibility sink in. Following Jesus means that Jesus actually expects you to do something.
How Jesus loved, we too should love. Where Jesus went, we should also go. What Jesus did, we should do. How Jesus taught, we should teach. Who Jesus hung out with, we should hang out with. We should be following in Jesus’ footsteps. That’s what it means to follow God. It’s not about our words, it’s about our actions.
What Following Jesus Tells The World
That’s what the world so desperately needs. It needs Christians that take their name seriously, which actually be the hands and feet of Jesus. The world is hurting. People are hungry, oppressed, tired, lost, and out of hope. And it’s our job to go to them.
The problem is we’ve made all these problems people are facing political issues, national security issues, somebody else’s issues… It’s their issue. They created it. They allowed it… It’s certainly not our issue… But it is, if you are a Christian, it’s a God issue. It’s YOUR issue.
When someone is hurting, sick, oppressed, sitting in a cell, struggling in addiction, lonely, hopeless, or just needs a friend it’s our job as Christians to be the hands and feet of Jesus for them. Every person is loved by God. Every person is created in HIS image. Every person has intrinsic value.
Yet so often Jesus followers don’t treat people the same. We don’t value each life equally. We are quick to come up with excuses to why we don’t have to help that person or why they don’t deserve our help.
Life is sacred. It doesn’t matter if the life belongs to an unborn baby, a 40yr black man, an immigrant seeking safety, or someone who is stressed, oppressed, or overlooked. Their life is highly valued by the creator of the universe. And their life should also be highly valued by anyone who bears His name. That’s our mission.
The problem is we’ve replaced our God-given mission with our desires for safety, comfort, and security. We’d rather have a comfortable life in a safe country. And those desires aren’t inherently bad. But when they become the primary driving force we lose our effectiveness, our saltiness. And what good is salt that loses its saltiness? (Matthew 5:13)
Least we forget that we serve a God that literally became helpless in pursuit of us. A God that willingly went to the cross to make a way for us to get back to Him. We serve a God that went through hell on our behalf. And the call of Christians is to do the same for others.
If the primary driving force in your life is safety and comfort you have stopped following in the footsteps of Jesus. I don’t say that as an attack, but a reminder. One that I know that I need.
The mission of Christians is not to seek safety. It’s not to pursue comfort. It’s to seek and love the lost, the hurting, and the opposed. Following Jesus means being His hands and feet. And let’s be honest. As a whole, the church is not known for doing that.
So, What Does It Mean To Follow Jesus?
Okay, that was a little bit of a rant. But I think it’s important that we understand the gravity of the role that God has given us. We are actually called to follow God, not with our words, rather our actions. Following Jesus requires us to actually do what He did.
So, let’s shift gears a bit and look at how we an follow in Jesus footsteps.
I want to ask three questions. Where did Jesus go? What did Jesus do? And how did Jesus feel?
These questions will show us what Jesus did and show us what we should be doing.
Where Did Jesus Go?
To answer the first question, I find Jesus is most commonly found in one of three places in the Gospels:
- Alone (often praying/resting)
- With His closest friends (community)
- With the opposed/forgotten (the sick, sinners, and culturally insignificant people)
Obviously that’s not an exhaustive list of the places Jesus went. But if you read through the Gospels you would find Jesus is often in, or heading to, one of those three places.
Of all those places we are pretty good at the second one. But the other two, not so much.
We often downplay the need for rest and spending time with God. But Jesus modeled for us how we should live. He showed us that we need to care for ourselves SO THAT we have enough in our tank to care for those around us. We need to go find rest in our life.
For more on the importance of rest check out: If Jesus Rested So Should You
We also struggle with going to the oppressed and forgotten. It’s messy, it’s dirty, and it can be a little dangerous. So we often just avoid it. We’d rather stay in our safe little community rather than venture into the unknown. But to be the hands and feet of Jesus we have to go to the people He went too. Even if that makes us a little uncomfortable. And even it that puts us in danger.
Which leads us to the second question, what did Jesus do when he got to those people?
What Did Jesus Do?
When Jesus was with people He gave them what they needed. Not always want they wanted, but what they ultimately needed. He sat with the sick. Talked to the ignored. Challenged the proud. Helped the poor. Gave purpose to the hopeless. Comforted the distraught. And forgave the masses. In short, He showed love to everyone He came in contact with.
Maybe the most applicable story for us today is found in John 8:1-11. The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. This woman was unfairly accused and was in great danger of being harmed by those in authority. What does Jesus do? He steps in and defends her.
Jesus got between her and the attackers. He stood toe to toe with her accusers. He defended her in a bold, yet nonviolent way. And don’t miss this, at great risk to Himself.
The reality is she wasn’t totally innocent. She had some blame. But that didn’t make how she was being treated okay. That didn’t justify her attacker’s actions. Often for us to actually stick our neck out for someone we want to know they are innocent. But Jesus didn’t do that, He stood with her not because she was innocent but because she was in dire need of a friend, an advocate, a savior.
That, I think, is maybe the best example for us to follow today. The church should be defending those that cannot defend themselves. We should stand up for those that are facing unfair treatment. We should be friends and advocates to those being opposed and in doing so we can point them to our Savior.
And if it puts us at risk, so be it. Their life is worth it because Jesus said so when He went to the cross for us and for them. And our charge is to pick up our cross and do the same.
Which leads to the final question, how did Jesus feel when he interacted with people?
How Did Jesus Feel?
I think this is an important question. Because often we are motivated to do the right things for the wrong reasons. But Jesus was motivated by His longing, His desire, to just be with His creation.
Jesus was genuinely moved by the people He encountered. He showed His emotions, He empathized. That’s one of the things that attracted people too Him. He actually cared about them and what they were going through.
Here’s three emotions we often see Him displaying:
- Compassion (like with the woman at the well)
- Grief (like facing the death of Lazarus)
- Anger Over Injustices (like flipping tables in the temple)
Imagine if the Church was known for those things. If we were actually known for genuinely caring and empathizing with people. If we had compassion on the suffering. Regardless of what brought them to that place. If we cried with those grieving an other senseless act of violence. If we got filled with righteous anger over the injustices done to people, to kids, in our country. Imagine the impact, the difference, the Church could make if we just embodied these three emotions.
I think if Jesus were here today He would be weeping, I mean weeping, with the friends and family those who just lost a loved one.
I think if Jesus were here today he would be flipping the preverbal tables over the injustices that are happening at our borders, in our minority communities, and sadly even in our churches.
I think Jesus if He were here today he would be sitting with those that are left out and ignored.
If Jesus were here today I don’t think He’d be going to the powerful, the leaders, or even the pastors. I think you’d find Him spending His time with the lost, the sick, the left out, the castaways, the people that almost no one else goes to. Why? Because He genuininely loves them.
That should be what motivates us too. People aren’t projects to be won over, their are children of God to be loved. And that’s what we should do. Following Jesus means we embody the love He had for people.
So, what does it mean to follow God? It means that we are His hands and feet. It means that we go where Jesus went. We do what He did. And we feel what He felt.
If you call yourself a Christian, ask yourself, are you following Jesus? Are you actually following in His footsteps?
Jesus actually expects His followers to be His hands and feet. He expects us to get in the game. The question for us is, how will we respond?
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