Tony Campolo posed the question, “If there were no heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus?” I started to answer, but stopped. I had to admit that I’m not even sure I follow Jesus now. I’ve been a Christian for many years. I believe that Jesus is who He says He is. I invited Him into my heart (over a hundred times…and counting! Thank you, A/G youth camp!). I always cooked at the men’s fellowship breakfast. Spoke in tongues (but was never “slain in the Spirit”–I’m no wacko). I do my best to be obscenely generous. I’ve experienced immediate healing when I called together the elders of my church. I pray (for other people, not just myself). I don’t know too many orphans, but I help widows and reach out to strangers whenever I can. I go to third-world countries and help build meeting places for the Church to gather. And this little light of mine? I’m gonna…well, you know. Is that following?
The idea of following Jesus has somehow been blurred into . . . Christian activities. I’m not saying these things have no merit. I just question whether they necessarily represent an accurate definition of following. If I say I’m following Jesus, then it stands to reason that I am going somewhere that Jesus has been, or that I am doing something Jesus did. Yeah, we did the gay coffee thing, and I’ve sat in the gutter and befriended homeless guys in the city. But I still stop for a cheese steak on the way out of town and come home to my sleep-number bed (Jesus didn’t have a bad back like I do, you see). Is there a balance (as we all so desperately hope)? Or is that a cop out? Would you still follow? Do you follow?
The question of whether or not I am truly a follower of Jesus is one I ponder almost every day. The only days when I don’t struggle are the days when I allow all my church activities and business to keep me so busy I have no time for reflection. I have been a “Christian” for 38 years and a pastor for 20 and yet I still wonder at times: Do I follow Jesus? I think it’s a question every Christian should consider often.
The question that Campolo poses at the beginning of Marshall’s post in one of my favorites to pose to new members, older children, and especially confirmation age youth. It is always amazing to see how many people “follow” Jesus in order to avoid hell and gain heaven. It just seems a little mercenary to me, but then again Paul once said “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19). My desire is to follow Jesus regardless of the rewards that are forthcoming, however. My desire is to follow him because of the great love he has shown the world and to me.