I’ve written quite a bit lately about following Jesus and how that’s not necessarily the same thing as being a Christian, even a “Bible-believing” Christian.
And, as I’ve said before, while following Jesus always leads to love and Christlikeness, historically, some of the worst atrocities and inhumane cruelties ever perpetrated against another human being have been done by folks thinking they’re zealously serving Christ. And they’ve used the Bible as their defense. That particular point will need to be explored another time.
When we say we’re following Jesus we imply that He’s leading us somewhere. And I see that “somewhere” involving two critically important aspects of His teaching and ministry and His way of life:
- Jesus’ teachings and ministry. Particularly, His teaching in the so-called “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7), but also how He interacted with sinners and the marginalized of His culture (Luke 4:18-19; 7:34-35; Acts 10:38).
- Jesus’ way of life was one in constant communion (abiding) in the Father’s love, and letting that relationship inform what it means to do His will (John 15:9-11).
Negatively put, we could logically argue that not doing these things means we’re not following Jesus; although, we should also concede that even if we’re faithfully following Him, we’re doing so imperfectly.
But this is precisely my point: following Jesus must mean that we’re on the same trajectory that He was on during His earthly ministry. It must mean that we’re looking more and more like Him.
Following Jesus with regard to point one, means that we’re on a trajectory toward being known as “peacemakers” who have renounced our right to hold on to unforgiveness or seek revenge. It means that our demeanor is one of meekness, that we actually love our enemies and bless those who would take advantage of us.
It means we clean up our own mess when we’ve hurt others and we’re learning what it means to treat everyone exactly the same way we ourselves want to be treated.
And this especially means that we don’t point our finger at others when we still haven’t let Jesus take the log out of our own eye (that everyone can see but us!)
Following Jesus also means that we’re actually seeking the Kingdom first and leaving all the issues that other people obsess over in God’s care.
The second point actually makes the first point a reality because we’ve entered into the “Divine Dance” as partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). We’re living in the inner-circle of other-centered love that’s existed between the Father and the Son from before the foundation of the world (John 17:24; Eph.1:3-5), and this is changing us.
It means that our lifestyle is being molded and shaped by constant fellowship with the Father and the Son in the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3-4). And because of this, we’re learning how to show others the same love we ourselves have received (Matt. 22:37-40; John 13:35; 17:23; 1 John 4:7-21).
This two-fold trajectory is about going from “glory to glory,” but it’s not some charismatic spacetrip or contemplative navel gazing. This supernatural pathway has earthly tangibility that bears the real fruit of the Spirit in this world: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal.5:22-23).
Jesus told us that a tree is known by its fruit (Matt.7:16-20). And this is how we know we’ve been walking with Jesus. Conversely, if we think we’re following Him but not showing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we’re only deceiving ourselves, as Paul also told the Galatians…
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Gal.6:7-8 NKJV)
As I said before, the fruit doesn’t lie.
Following Jesus means we’re going where He’s leading us. His life is our true compass, pointing us to God, and pointing us to our true selves. And it always looks like love, which also means we’re increasingly more gracious and caring with those who aren’t as far along that path as us, and even if they’ve wandered off the path (see Gal.6:1-2).