Summary: The difference from walking behind Him (coming to church) and walking with Him (living out your life for Him.
Do any of you have some of those words that you just cannot stand? You know the words, usually words used by kids, that just rub you the wrong way; for example, “righteous dude,” psychedelic, totally awesome, and one of my personal favorites wicked. Why would you want to call anything good and given of God “wicked?” Another one of my favorites on this list of disliked words is “Christian.” Now that about half of you are up in arms, listen to what I have to say before you get too defensive. The word Christian means to be Christ-like. Christian denotes having Christ’s character and nature. Everything about us would exude some aspect of the way Christ did his work. I personally feel very far from this. Christian means we carry the life of Christ around with us. A somewhat common phrase says “We may be the only Christ some people ever see.” Although this should all be true, I feel very far from being adequate to call myself Christ-like; maybe a follower or a believer but not a Christian.
The problem then is that there is a difference between a follower or believer and a full fledged Christian. Think of the difference between walking behind and walking with someone. There is a specific difference between walking with someone and walking behind someone. You walk behind your dog; you walk with your spouse. Hopefully that isn’t backwards though I could almost see Gary Nall surrounded by His dogs and Danelle about fourteen paces ahead to get away from the mob. When you walk behind someone you may be aiming to pick up things they leave or forget. You may be patiently waiting for them to fail. You may not want to be fully associated with them. However, when you walk with them, you engage them and live in their world. You work through problems together with them and develop a deeper relationship due to what you have been through together. There is something more to walking with someone through life than to just walk behind them.
Jesus encountered this very problem. Many people had been following behind him and watching him perform miracles and teach. They stood in awe as Jesus corrected the powerful Pharisees and the strict Sadducees. When they heard the messages they cheered that someone was going to learn their lesson. As the large mob of people had been following behind Jesus, He finally turns and addresses them. We find this address in Luke chapter 14:25ff. Jesus needed to explain to them that there was a big difference between just following him and becoming one of his devoted and precious disciples. There was a difference between following behind him and walking with Him. It wasn’t enough to just walk behind Jesus. It wasn’t enough to listen to Jesus’ sermons. It wasn’t enough to attend the Church of Jesus every week. It took more to walk with Jesus. To follow Jesus Christ, enough means everything you have. Starting in verse 25, Jesus explains what enough really means by listing the full requirements of being a disciple of His.
The Requirements: (vs. 26-27, 33)
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” – “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
There are at least four quickly noted places where someone who only walks behind Christ will need to grow before they can be a true Christ-like person, a disciple. Verse 26 labels two of them and also poses a slight problem. Number 1: What does Jesus mean when he says that you must hate your family or you cannot be His disciple? This is a linguistic issue. Just as we use certain words to mean the opposite and to express the difference between two objects (like calling something wicked when it is good), so every language has its peculiarities. In this case Jesus might as well be saying, “You must love me so much that compared to your love for me, you might as well hate your family.” The love we have for Jesus must be so spectacular that any other love seems pathetic beside it. Jesus must have picked this very topic because he knew that this test would basically fail most people. What do we love more than the family we have around us? God himself in a way set this example by giving up his only Son to save us. God gave up his “family” to save us. An example you will find to test this hasn’t occurred in America for years now. However, in other countries, and especially in the days of the early church, it would be common to see men who called themselves Christians lined up and forced to watch the torture and death of their beloved spouses. If only they would renounce Christ, their spouse would go free. Many of them did renounce Christ, and as Jesus says, they were no longer disciples.