In this emerging era of social media, particularly Facebook, it is very easy to be a fan. For the uninformed, on Facebook one is frequently asked to be a fan of most anything and anyone that makes a request. Company’s like Amazon.com and Target will request that you “become a fan.” One can be a fan of a celebrity or a politician or a political cause or political party. Our church has a page on Facebook and we are constantly soliciting others to become a fan of FBC Augusta. The idea is to generate as many fans as possible because that helps get your message out and, after all, the one with the most fans wins, right?
Here is the thing about being a fan: it requires absolutely no commitment. None whatsoever. Whether one is a fan on Facebook, or a fan for a favorite team, being a fan requires nothing. In fact, sometimes a fan is just part of a fad. When I was a kid I loved the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburg Steelers. One Christmas I received one of those cheap athletic jackets with the colors and logo of the Steelers. I watched them a bit on television, but I was not particularly devoted. I just liked the idea of being a fan. That phase lasted maybe a season or two and then I moved on to other things.
Have you ever heard of the phrase “fair weathered fan”? It refers to fans who look fully engaged and devoted when the team is winning, but let them go through a losing streak and they are absent in the bleachers.
Perhaps it sounds harsh and judgmental to suggest that Jesus has an incredible fan base, while true followers are hard to come by. In fact, I cannot make that assessment or judgment. I am certain of this: Jesus does not need a fan base. Jesus calls us to be followers. There are other analogies that could be made. Eugene Peterson makes the contrast between tourists and pilgrims. Others talk about consumers and servants.
Even though I cannot look into the heart of another and judge one’s commitment to Christ, it is my assumption that Jesus has many fans, but far fewer followers. Yet the one consistent invitation Jesus extended to the many that came to hear him, be impressed by him and be touched by him, was “follow me.” Twenty-one times we read this invitation in the four Gospels.
So what to do? While it is fun for me to be a fan – creating for myself a bit of an identity through an association to someone or something else – the more substantive act is to follow. If Jesus said to fishermen to drop their nets and follow him that implies that my agenda ceases to be the most important agenda. If Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth, this means I need to take serious his call to be a servant. If Jesus said to not lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, then I best invest in relationships here on earth. If Jesus said deny yourself, then I can no longer be the center of the universe.
Following Jesus is not the same thing as being a fan. You follow Jesus into the voting booth. You follow Jesus to work. You follow Jesus to school. You follow Jesus to your home. You follow Jesus when everybody is looking and you follow Jesus when no one is looking. Nobody said following Jesus would be easy. In fact Jesus assured us it would not. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)