34And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Mark 8
We don’t like this verse. We try to blot it out of our minds. That failing, we claim not to understand its meaning. We say things like, “It just means we all got problems.” It’s why we don’t like to be called “followers.” Just call us “Christians.” Lots of “Christians” aren’t followers. If you look close, they’re not even believers.
“Christian” is meaningless. Forget it. Today it simply means someone who calls himself a Christian. It’s a status word. It describes what someone is or says he is. It means no more than what the speaker intends. It doesn’t communicate a unique idea.
Follower is an action word. It implies selfless action. It implies actions along a path determined by another. It implies a singularity that eliminates all other options. It means Jesus is pilot not copilot. He is also navigator and not a steward. He doesn’t make our way possible or more comfortable. Followers were originally called The Way, not “a way”or “go your own way.”
We know it’s not like social media followers. We follow someone on Facebook or Twitter. It means they interest us. We want to know what’s happening in their life. A Jesus follower is much more than that. We have to be more than interested in Jesus, we have to go where He would have us go and do what He would have us do.
Admit it. Don’t we want Jesus to make the life we want possible? Don’t we ask kids, “What do you want to be?” Don’t we ask others, “What do you do?” Aren’t these the wrong questions? Aren’t any such questions just wrong? We don’t know the path. We should trust and follow. We know the destination only in a vague ultimate sense. The path is completely unknown and unknowable.
We don’t want to be followers. Followers are sheep. Jesus didn’t call us sheep or himself, shepherd, by accident. If we are honest we are all sheep. We just don’t all have a good Shepherd. Most of us have shepherds who don’t love us or even know us. They just have the skill to take us where they want us to go while making us believe it was all our idea.
Letting go of our life becomes harder the longer we have clung to it and the more comfortable we are in it. It’s harder to recognize it’s merely an illusion of life and only a shadow of the glorious and joyful life cross carrying can be.