We hear it over and over these days -
people talking about how many "followers" they or someone else
has on social media. But when you take the pride of what could
essentially be a worthless number out of it, what does having
all those followers really matter?
It doesn't matter one bit if what they're sharing doesn't somehow improve the lives of their followers. And let's be honest... how much of the content produced and shared on social media actually improves lives beyond providing some laughter occasionally or just a "break" from "real life" from time to time?
What does it really matter how many followers someone has?
Let's think about it for a minute...
ultimately, all a "follower" does is watch what someone else is
doing, right? From people who do casual, convenient check-ins to
see what's going on to those who are fanatical, obsessive
stalkers having to see every single thing. If the "influencer"
quits entertaining them or says something they don't like, what
do they do? They simply unfollow them. They quit looking to see
what's going on.
Scripture tells us there were a lot of people who did the same thing with Jesus. If they heard He was going somewhere, they'd rush over to see what He was going to do. "What's He going to do for that person?" (i.e. "what's He going to do to entertain me?") If He quit entertaining them or said something they didn't like, they just wouldn't follow Him to the next town. Some showed up just to see what they could get out of it. After Jesus fed the 5,000+, many followed Him to the next town looking for their next meal. Just looking for what He could do for them. Just looking to be entertained by the next miracle. They were plain old, "basic" followers.
Here's the thing - anyone can follow along behind someone. It's typically easy enough to figuratively walk down the same road with someone else in front, isn't it? Let them lead the way and deal with whatever issues come up. If the road doesn't suit your liking anymore, just find someone else to follow.
But then there were those who came to Him genuinely seeking Him out. Sure, they knew Jesus could help them, but they knew He was the only one that could help them. They knew without Him, they were hopeless. They knew it was all about Him. It all boiled down to Who He is, not just what He can do. And many of those continued to follow Him. Not just physically from town to town, but in their spirit.
When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He wasn't searching for "basic" followers. He didn't desire on-lookers or an entourage just to ride His coat tails. That's not what He meant at all when He spoke of taking up a cross and following Him ( , , , , ). He doesn't want people just to watch where He's going and simply head in that same direction. Don't get me wrong - that's a good start, but it's not the narrow gate ( , ). Yes, the word used for follow in the Greek ( ) can mean "follow one who precedes, join as an attendant, or accompany." But Jesus is not interested in simply increasing His follower count. He's looking for those who will fulfill the other definition. He's looking for those who desire to become His disciples. For those who will side with His party. For those who will "cleave steadfastly to Him" and "conform wholly to His example."
Jesus ain't looking for "basic" followers.
If you're a "basic" or even somewhat casual or intermittent follower of Christ right now, that's fine. Simply following Him to any degree to see what He's doing is a great way to find out exactly Who He is and what He's all about. We all have to start somewhere. And that's really not a bad place to start. You wouldn't commit your life to or marry someone you just met or barely know, would you? Of course not. But just know that at some point He's going to present you with a choice. And you'll have to decide to either side with Him or not. (Click here for a follow up on this...)
He isn't calling us to continue passively watching Him, but to actively participate in the "Jesus of Nazareth International Evangelical Association." He wants us to learn from Him and say what He says and do what He does. And you know what it comes down to? Love God and love our neighbors - not just in words, but in action.
And please don't base your perception of Jesus or decision to follow Him on the hypocritical words and actions of so-called or self-proclaimed Christians. We all make mistakes. We all say and do things we shouldn't. We're all learning and growing (or at least we should be). And yes, there are those who have made the mistake of following their own hearts or "men" rather than Jesus. They've taken their eyes off of Him. Jesus doesn't want you to follow their example, but His. We would all do well to keep our eyes on Him rather than others.