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What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ (i.e., be a Christian)

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in discipleship | 16 comments

What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ (i.e., be a Christian)

Lately, when I’ve watched or listened to interviews with Christians, I’ve heard something like this: “I’m a Christian, and so I …” What follows invariably related to some of the major social or cultural battles raging today.

“I’m a Christian, and so I think X about illegal immigrants.”

“I’m a Christian, and so I believe X about gun control.”

“I’m a Christian, and so my stand on same-sex marriage is X.”

“I’m a Christian, and so I prefer for X political party.”

These are only a few of the kinds of statements that I’ve heard recently. I’m not concerned that people have strong opinions about certain things. Not at all. I am concerned, however, when these opinions or convictions are used to define what it means to be a Christian. Or, if these convictions do not define what it means to be a Christian, they are often used to divide Christians from one another.

I understand that this is not usually what people intend to communicate by these statements. I think they intend to communicate that because they are followers of Jesus Christ – and based on their understanding of who is and and how he wants them to follow him – they believe certain things about the world, and those beliefs affect their stands on various social, cultural, and political issues.

But, I think what others usually hear is this: “Christians believe X about that issue.” or “To be a Christian, you must believe X about that.” or “Jesus wants you to vote for X.”

Is that really what following Jesus is all about? Because that’s what we’re telling people (whether we intend to or not).

Believe it or not, most of the social issues that we’re dealing with today were also present in the first century AD (not only present, but prevalent and accepted). But, in Scripture, we never see Jesus’ name invoked to attack or defend a political, social, or cultural stance.

So, if being a Christian (a follower of Jesus Christ) is not about these things, then what is it about? What should we focus on when we talk about being a follower of Jesus Christ?


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  1. 4-11-2013

    Being a Christian means submitting to Jesus as lord and king, following him into the world, and being his hands and feet by sharing his love with everyone we come across.

  2. 4-11-2013

    It seems to me a never ending battle as we check our effect on those around us. Much more humbling to understand it’s not only about my freedom in Christ but about putting another’s soul first.” All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 1 Corinthians 10:23
    If my hope is to hear;” Well done, good and faithful servant” instead of Wow, you sure told them the truth! It seems to this wretched discple that it’s all about relationship effects.
    I’m lowzy at that by the way.
    Thx Alan for the reminder.

  3. 4-11-2013

    Amen Chuck – Loving God and Loving each other…

  4. 4-11-2013

    So, why do you think people tend to add other things (besides “love God and love others”) when talking about what it means to follow Jesus Christ?


  5. 4-11-2013

    Because one legitimate aspect of following Christ is developing our own Spirit-led convictions for how we conduct ourselves. The problem is that people then confuse their own convictions with universal Christian law, and they try to enforce them on others.

  6. 4-11-2013

    I’ll just give this link to some thoughts I had a while back on this topic.

    It’s a little long, but clear, I hope.

  7. 4-12-2013

    Without the direct conviction of God, none of us can or will repent and conform our lives to God’s moral standards. So we do little good trying to convince people intellectually. We need to stand for Biblical morality, yet put our focus on love and service and radical obedience to the living, resurrected Jesus.

  8. 4-12-2013

    I am not religious at all. I do not believe in any Gods. I have however read the New Testament and believe in the message of love. In my opinion to be Christian is to follow the things you should have learned from Jesus. Love one another. Forgiveness. Turning the other cheek. Charity. Putting people before money. Aren’t we supposed to be judged by how we treat the least among us?

    In my experience most people who claim to be Christian…. are not very Christianly.

  9. 4-14-2013

    great post & comments, thank you.

    This was a great addition to my week with the Lord.

    We had such a great time as a Church family today talking about relationships in the family of God. So few of us know what loving healthy relationships look like in our blood families or wherever so trying to have loving/familial relationships with each other really feels like a walk in the dark. Today we talked about everything from Galatians to 2 Corinthians and then Amos – which I didn’t even know existed, really. And God made it all flow so beautifully together and reminded each of us different things that we needed to hear.

    I personally just needed to be reminded that above ALL else, God cares about my love. My love for Him – which will be evidenced in my love for others. It is so clear to me through His Word how deeply God cares about how we treat each other as brothers & sisters. As a parent, I can understand that to an how much more the perfect Father, Love Himself, must He desire that for His children. It’s pretty remarkable, amazing, humbling, convicting to be reminded of that commandment frequently and see how I fail at it. When we experience His perfect, grace-filled, patient love & then come face to face with our own imperfect selfish love – the contrast is blinding.

    That true pure love is only capable with His spirit pouring through us.

    I believe in my heart that is what being a follower of Christ is all about: following Jesus’ footsteps that received from God continually (okay so I don’t see myself ever being able to perfect continually receiving this side of heaven — so I just desire to get better at better at it & abiding in Him more and more)… and because I am following Jesus’ footsteps that humbled Himself & was totally dependent on the Lord & receiving from Him all the time…. THEN I will become a lover of God & people. Our closeness to the Lord (being able to receive from Him) is directly related to our ability to love others – so it does all start with relationship with God our Father, like Jesus shows us.

    Even though I do believe in my heart, that LOVING is most important, I can’t believe how quickly I can lose sight of that. I must focus on receiving God’s love so I can be a channel of His love to others…or I SOO quickly get in my eway. Everything in me wants to strive & strain & reach & try harder & do more… and He simply wants me to rest & receive & trust & be still & wait & depend on….

    Some days, depending on Him & giving up my desire to try harder feels like I’m lowering some standard? Like I’m not trying my best. But if dying to self (self-confidence, self plans, selfishness, self timetable, self efforts, self focus) and surrendering to the Lord is not the hardest thing we will ever do…and does not take our best efforts, then what does!?

    And on another note, sometimes showing gentle love & grace to an undeserving person does feel like I’m compromising something, lowering some standard — and in those moments, I know that I have lost focus on the Lord & my eyes have shifted back on myself and I am on the verge of spiritual pride. I am reminded in those moments to run back to Him because His Spirit is faithful to remind me how undeserving I am and that I have lost connection with His heart if I think I deserve His grace & others don’t.

    But… rather than *trying* to love better, love more…. I really am focusing on simply following Jesus’ example to depend fully on His Father & focus on Him & desire His will & to trust Him. That has been my focus in my heart. I know when I am close to the Lord & experiencing closeness with Him, He will humble me with His patient merciful love that is so undeserved. And when I recognize there is nothing I can bring to the table to make me worthy of His love & grace & mercy…. He will change my perspective of others around me. I will become loving, simply because of His love.

    I am convinced that anytime I have tried to be more loving… or try to be more like Jesus… it’s fruitless because underneath it all, everything I do is for selfish reasons. Even as simple as I will show love because it makes me feel good. Or I will do this, so they will do this. Or I will love them so they will change. vs. God’s love which simply says.. I will love without condition because I am love and I can’t do anything but love, no matter what. There is always a selfish motive for everything we do when we aren’t doing it out of humility & surrender to the Lord. So that’s what I believe following Jesus is – to surrender to the Lord!! Surrendering to the Lord & recognizing that not only is the Lord my creator & my savior & sovereign potter that is molding me, but He is also the only one that can bring true unselfish love into my heart to be able to flow from others. I can’t produce it, I’ve tried!

  10. 4-15-2013

    Thank you for thinking through this important topic with me!


  11. 4-15-2013

    Being a follower of Jesus is discovery…it’s wonder, it’s journey. I think the funnest part of being a follower of Jesus is trying to pass on the love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, comfort, wisdom, joy, peace, that Jesus has given you. People don’t need to hear my political views.

    People don’t need to know what I think of Oprah, or George Clooney. People don’t need to know if I watch Fox news, CNN, or MSNBC. THEY NEED JESUS!! I, for one, have not figured out the best way to convey that through my life. However, the process is a blast!!

  12. 4-15-2013

    agreed Bill Olson!

  13. 4-15-2013

    Very few people are teaching true discipleship, which is in essence what you’ve written about in this post. It appears from my research that 30-40 years ago, evangelicalism allowed Christian doctrine to be defined by its stance in the realm of politics and social causes. I think that may be the so called, “Social Gospel.” With these notions you have such things as liberation theology and the like. I think about how at first in Rome, Christians were not immediately persecuted because they were seen as a sect of Judaism and therefore a protected religious class. Soon Judaism and Christianity began to distinguish themselves from each other with Christians declaring themselves different because of their allegience to Christ, his teachings, death and resurrection. Soon thereafter persecution broke out intensely against Christians.

    At some point Christians or the Church are going to have to speak out against the way Christianity has allowed itself to be defined by political and social causes, for which most people have some sort of affinity, thus making Christians and Christianity tolerable. But when we say “we are not of them”, i.e. the social and political causes for which we are defined, and we define ourselves in our walk by the call of Christ to true discipleship, then we will begin to be tried in the fire as true. In the process of being distinguished as truly different we may at the same time welcome persecution for our obedience to Christ and not allegience to country, ideology or some other cause.

  14. 4-18-2013

    I’ve seen more and more people who are understanding that helping one another follow Jesus (“discipling one another”) is less about the books and conferences and sermons and websites, etc. Instead, it’s more about the day to day interaction, sharing your lives with one another, sharing Jesus with one another, listening to one another, encouraging one another, etc. I’ve been encouraged by this trend.

    Of course, I also still hear loud voices calling for more and better books and conferences and sermons and websites, etc….


  15. 7-24-2013

    To Me being a christian means that i am in him, he in me, being found in him, being lost in wonder and praise, to follow him and trusting to obey, I have had a vision where God was calling me, did i rush in to his presence as in an embrace a hug, or hide in fear. being a christian means i no longer need to fear death, judgement death, i am in another kingdom, a pearl of great price, redeemed with the blood of Christ. yours in Christ Richard

  16. 7-24-2013

    IMO, a Christian is someone who follows and trusts Jesus and his life, Way, teachings, and example. Here’s a way to help determine if we’re Christians: