Although Christ’s followers were later called “Christians” in Antioch, Jesus’ original invitation to discipleship throughout his ministry was simply, “Follow me.” Sometimes his disciples followed closely and willingly and other times reluctantly and far off.
According to the Gospels, the disciples’ relationship to Jesus was a work in progress in which he remained faithful to them regardless of the quality of their following.
Writing to the young church at Philippi, the aging Apostle Paul spoke of his own faith, not as a trademark, but as a vibrant, intimate relationship with the living Christ – sharing his Lord’s suffering and experiencing the power of his resurrection. Then Paul added, “Don’t think that I’ve already achieved this faith. Rather, I continue to press on, attempting to grasp even more firmly that purpose for which Christ has grasped me.”
For me, it seems closer to the truth to say that I am part of a company of those attempting to follow Jesus. However, just because I think I’m following Jesus, doesn’t always mean I am. Discipleship is a work in progress, a lifelong process.
This prayer attributed to a long-dead slave captures the spirit of what it means to be a follower of Jesus: “O Lord, I ain’t what I wanna be and I ain’t what I oughta be. And O Lord, I ain’t what I’m gonna be, but thanks to You Lord, I ain’t what I used to be.” Amen.