“Just because they are Christians does not mean they are necessarily followers of Christ.”
This is a quote from a book I read recently. The power of this one statement has stayed with me now for a few weeks. Some may think, “Aren’t they the same?” Perhaps they are, but I don’t think so. They are similar, but not completely interchangeable. One can be a Christian without being a follower of Christ. So what’s the difference exactly?
We live in a country that loves its sports. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer (yes, soccer)… even Nascar. You can watch golf on TV. I’m not sure why you would want to, but you can.
Here in the south, college football is a religion. When we moved back to Alabama my kids were flabbergasted by the cult following of Alabama and Auburn football. The icons for both schools are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I’ve seen them on underwear, watches, hats, purses, necklaces, plates, cups, cars, trucks, shoes, and sunglasses.
Without fail, each of my four kids was told they had to choose a side, a school they would pull for. It’s part of the ritual greeting here. “Hello. What’s your name? Who’re you for?”
My youngest wasn’t sure what to say so he asked me when he got home from his first day (yes, first day) of school here, if we pulled for Alabama or Auburn. Oh my. I told him it really didn’t matter, but that he came from a long line of Alabama fans, so it might make life in the family easier if he just said Alabama. Sheesh.
What I have come to realize here in football land is that there are fans, and then there are followers. Fans own a t-shirt with the logo of school they like. They watch the games on Saturday with friends, and cheer loudly when their team scores.
Followers are a different breed altogether. Followers buy the underwear. Followers know the player’s names and the player’s momma’s names. They know who all the coaches are. They know who the water boy is and who’s wearing the mascot uniform this year. Followers own season tickets, and plan their fall schedules around football games. They’ll miss work if they are sick, but they will not let a small bout of appendicitis keep them from the big game!
I wish I were exaggerating that last one… I am not. Last football season I saw a patient who went to an Alabama game knowing he was seriously ill, told his friends at halftime he was going to his truck because he wasn’t feeling well.
After the game his friends found him unconscious in the truck, and he was only then transported to the hospital. After the game they checked on him. They couldn’t be expected to miss the game to check on him, could they? I asked him why he didn’t call his friends from his truck to take him to the hospital, and he told me he didn’t want them to miss the game. He listened to the game on the radio until he passed out.
So often we come to Christ and decide that’s enough. We are fans. We love what he did, we are thankful he did it for us, and we smile occasionally when he does it for someone else. We wear his cross around our neck. We might even put an outline of a fish on our car bumper. We go to church once in a while, or perhaps we go every week. We are Christians. We will live for eternity in heaven when we die. That’s enough, right?
That’s enough for a fan. But a follower craves more. Much more. A follower wants to know Jesus. He desires to walk as Jesus walked. A follower wants the mind and heart of Christ. She wants to be his hands and his feet in a world that needs him so much. A follower wants to leave religion behind and follow the person. A follower lets go of the rules and embraces the relationship. In the seventies a Christ follower was known as a Jesus Freak. One definition I found of a Jesus freak was, “someone who displayed an unusual or embarrassing amount of enthusiasm for Jesus”. I like that.
Our enthusiasm for sports teams can easily be called unusual or embarrassing. Most of us just roll our eyes and shake our heads when we see large bellied men take off their shirts and paint their swollen abdomens with their team colors. We tolerate their enthusiasm, but how often are we accused of displaying unusual or embarrassing amounts of enthusiasm when it comes to our faith?
It is absolutely enough to be a fan. But if there are times when you wonder if there is more to this Christianity thing than fire insurance, consider becoming a follower. You’ll find the answer is an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
So how about you? Are you a fan or a follower?