Following God

The Standard October 22, 2020

My younger brother Neil is 6 feet, 5 inches tall with more of a football player/defensive tackle build than that of a basketball player. He is someone who knows what he thinks and clearly articulates what he believes has happened and should happen. In 2000 I was fortunate enough to get to fly to Scotland where he was the Gifford Research Fellow in Natural Theology at the University of Aberdeen. After touring the relatively compact Old Town/Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland we went to London, England. There were numerous sights we wanted to see, and Neil had mapped out our itinerary quite methodically. In this populated capital city, the sidewalks were packed with pedestrians. For a few days, Neil led and I followed. I vividly remember keeping my head down and barreling through the crowd behind him. His pace was brisk, and my only job was to keep up, staying in the shadow of his tall frame. Actually, it was really nice not to have to look at a map or to try to figure out where we had to turn. I had full confidence that Neil had a plan and knew where we were going. The trip worked out exceedingly well.

As much confidence as we can have in a wonderful travel guide or an exceptional spiritual leader, we can have vastly more in God. Jesus called the first disciples to forsake all impediments in order to follow him, as he calls us as well.

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”  (Matthew 4:18-22)

The authors of Community Bible Study’s workbook on the Gospel of John write, “If you follow someone, you must turn where they turn, detour when they detour, and stop when they stop. You must say in pace with them. Following someone means giving up your own best ideas of how to get to your destination. When the first disciples decided to follow Jesus, implicit in their decision was their commitment to leave behind certain aspects of their former lives. From that point on, Jesus would be the leader. He would call the shots. They would simply follow. Sometimes, following would feel exciting and wonderful. Other times, it would be frightening and difficult.”

Following Christ is not always easy, but his goodness and kindness assure us of a bright destination.  “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

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