By Stan F. Counsell | PREVIEW Columnist
Imagine a large and boisterous Sunday afternoon parade marching through downtown with drums beating loudly, clowns holding brightly colored balloons, marchers waving at the onlookers and a band playing glorious God-honoring music. It would get our attention, right? We would probably huddle up at the curb and cheer them on; after all, everybody loves a parade.
But, what if the parade’s people chanted, “I am not a fan of Jesus,” and even carried signs displaying that same perceived in-your-face statement? Wouldn’t that cause a myriad of responses? Many would be horrified, their jaws dropping, eyes bulging, with steam spewing from their ears. Others, not wishing a confrontation, would pretend they didn’t hear or see something so “disturbing.” Still, some parade route liners would venture a hearty, “Me, too,” and join the parade.
Such a strong proclamation would most certainly shred some of the peace and serenity of this mountain paradise, the air immediately electrified. But, wait, the marchers are some local church leaders and parishioners. This just can’t be. Is this the end of the world, people quitting on Jesus? Actually, it’s not.
A closer look shows the marchers are more in line with God’s word than many, seeing the Lord for what He truly is and who they, His followers, are. It’s all about our relationship with Jesus. Are we His fans or His followers?
As God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that man should be alone.” The operative Hebrew word for “not good” is the word “not.” It is translated as “never.” Almighty God, the creator of humankind, said it is never good to be alone.
We weren’t created to be an island, a lone wolf or a solitary tree in the midst of nowhere. We were created to have a solid and worthy relationship first with God, then with family and others. Even having pets is a delightful blessing and comfort when feeling alone.
But, sometimes a “fork in the road” can present itself in a relationship. Someone might have a problem trusting others due to past hurts. There can be different life goals, education, age, cultures and maturity levels that become difficult to ignore. It’s as if pebbles start mounting inside our sandals; we can ignore that lone little one for a season but, when more gather, the discomfort can’t be ignored.
Relationships can be that way: a great start, but then small difficulties grow over time and friendships become threatened — the proverbial fork in the road, decision time. Jesus encountered this “fork” many times when He walked the earth.
In John 6:66-69, Jesus was delivering some difficult teachings about Himself and many of His followers left, no longer willing to follow Him. Jesus turned to the Twelve and said, “Do you want to leave me too?” The disciples, uneasy at such hard teachings, counted the cost and chose to remain His followers.
Just what is the difference between a fan or follower of Jesus? Some of the following is gleaned from the book “Not A Fan” by Kyle Idleman, a teaching pastor in Louisville, Ky.
In Luke 9:57-62, three different people approached Jesus about following Him. Unfortunately, all three had, to them, commitment issues of varying sorts. They “knew” Jesus would give them leave. But Jesus, seeing through their smoke of excuses, didn’t.
These three made themselves but fans of Jesus. A fan will cheer you on, admire you, even be willing to commit some time to helping you. They will, in essence, be saying, “I will love you forever, today.”
A fan wants to wear a cross. A follower wants to bear the cross. A fan has no problem receiving a small touch from God. A follower wants a complete renovation. A fan can enthusiastically admire the cause of Christ. But a follower will deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus.
Furthermore, a fan is interested in looking their best for show. A follower wants to be their best in service to Christ. A fan will greatly value their personal comfort zone. A follower will consider the cause of Christ their true comfort zone. A fan keeps their eye on their watch. A follower keeps their eye on Jesus Christ — the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.
Finally, a fan considers it an option to find a biblically healthy Christian church to attend sparingly when it suits them. A follower will seek, find and strongly commit to such a church — hook, line and sinker.
When we come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, a spiritual fork in the road appears before us. We made our choice for Him, but of what value is that choice? Is that value one of ease because we have our life to live? Or, do we feel the burden of the apostle Paul when he wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For me, living is for Jesus Christ. But, when I die, there will be great gain.”
Our daily walk with God will be littered with forks. God will always call out to us, “Choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Will we? One choice will be of ease, the other one of service. Will we listen to ourselves or Jesus Christ — be a fan or a follower?
Let’s join the parade so that people will know our true and final stand.