Today, many of us have become comfortable with the new meaning of terms used on social media. We can friend a person on Facebook; we can like a business on Facebook; and we can follow someone on Twitter. As I thought about these social media terms, especially the idea of “following someone on Twitter,” I began to think about myself as a follower of Jesus Christ. I wondered if these terms have lost some of their meaning because today we can like, friend or follow almost anyone. Perhaps too many of us today are merely followers of Jesus in much the same way we follow so many others on Twitter. Weren’t we, after all, called to be disciples not just followers, in fact weren’t we even called by name?
As I personally reflected on the difference between being a follower verses a disciple I questioned myself to see if it was okay to be just a follower. It is clear in the great commission that Jesus wanted us all to be Disciples. Here is what He said in Matt 28:19-20 “Go, therefore,and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
As Christians the term Disciple is referring to us as students of Jesus. The New Testament tells us there were many followers but a much smaller number of Disciples. Disciple and discipline come from the same root word. One definition of discipline reads like this: “Discipline: to train (yourself) to do something by controlling your behavior.” Part of being a disciple means we must surrender ourself to the teacher. Jesus is our teacher. Jesus, in His great commission, said: “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Pay close attention He did not say “teach them to observe SOME of what I commanded them.” There is a cost to discipleship. In Matt 16:24, it is written: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
Said differently we are called to transformation. St. Paul challenges us to this transformation in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” This transformation process is not simply bringing ourselves into conformity with a bunch of rules; no, it actually means we are called to become imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1-2) “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”
We have been called to observe all of Jesus commands, how are we doing with this? Perhaps it is easier to just be a follower. Maybe as a follower I get to pick and choose what teaching I want to follow. I must admit that there are many days that I want to only observe some of Christ’s teaching, modify some of His other teachings, and sadly in some cases disregard the rest of the teachings. Are there teachings of our Lord that some days you would rather modify or disregard rather than observe? If we do this we are falling short of the Discipleship that we are called to.
In this past Sunday’s reading from 1 Samuel 3:3-10, after hearing the Lord call him three times, Samuel responded to the Lord with these words: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Not lost on me was that after the first two times Samuel was called he fell back asleep. At our Baptisms we too were called by name. How many times since then when the Lord has called us to be His Disciple have we fallen asleep and missed His call? As Disciples we must begin to respond to our Jesus with Samuel’s words; “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Now can I make a suggestion? Going forth from today perhaps each time we receive the hundreds or thousands of requests from social media sites to friend someone, like someone or follow someone, as we respond to that request we can in the quiet of our thoughts say to ourselves I will gladly friend, like or follow you but there is only one that I will be a Disciple of and that one is my Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father I ask you to please teach me each day to be a better student and imitator of your Son, and my Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!