Summary: The beautiful old hymn "Will you come and follow Me" asks us all to consider our call from Christ, both as believers and as church families.
Will You Follow?
Last week we sang a hymn that we have sang before. Will You Come and Follow Me was one of the opening songs and I found myself lost in it for the first time. I ‘felt’ the words as I made my feeble attempt to sing. The words to this hymn are comprised of an invitation from Christ to all of us. The hymn is also called The Summons, and it gives the response that we would give if we were speaking with Christ in person. I think last week, because I was really caught up in the words of this hymn, I had the very real feeling that I was in fact speaking personally to Christ. I thought it was worth while having a look at it this week.
Will You Come and Follow Me by John Bell is a hymn that speaks of commitment and discipleship to the call of Christ. The truth is that Christ's call changes the one being called even as the disciple changes the world by giving witness to our Saviour by word and deed. The first three stanzas are the Saviour's call and summons to discipleship. The final stanza is the Christian's response to Christ's call. (today I am using the four verse version).
Will you come and follow Me if I but call your name?
There is a question for all of us to ponder. Has God ever called your name? This, of course, is not meant to be a literal calling of your name – but it is a real question about our relationship to God. Have you ever felt a thought come over you that God was tapping you on the shoulder, getting your attention; calling you? Have you ever felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit moving you away from a thought or situation that you knew to be wrong? What about when you think of your eventual life’s end. This calling of your name is really the Holy Spirit moving within you. It is a real and important call.
When we get that call, and all of us at one time or another have felt it, we need to stop and take a breath and consider that call.
The second line of the song says, “Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? That simple line describes the awakening of a non believer to the reality of Christ, and all that comes with it. It carries with it a fantastic image of one entering into a relationship with their Saviour even though there is nothing familiar about it. Hebrews 11 tells us, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This image of going where you don’t know is the faith journey to take you to the certainty of what you humanly can not see.
The third and fourth lines in this invitation assure us that we are, in the act of having faith in Christ, allowing Him to show us His love for us and He asks us to know His name – Know that He is our Saviour.
The last line asks the believer a flat out question; Will you let My life be grown in you (will you let Christ in) and will you let your life be grown in Him, Jesus Christ. This is the fundamental invitation that Christ makes to everyone. “Will you let Me into your life and let Me show you the love that I have for you?” The promise in this first verse is that if we yield to the urgings of the Holy Spirit, the feelings that we all have at one time or another, we will realize this ‘offered’ relationship with Jesus Christ – and we will never be the same.
It also tells us that we will “grow.” Our faith and ability to rationalize this life will grow. Our acceptance of challenges and trials on this earth will be greater and with faith, easier to bear.
This hymn reminds us of the journey that we take in faith. The first line of the second stanza asks the key question. “Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?” Once we accept the invitation to have Christ in our life, it resembles
2 Corinthians 5:17, where Paul talks about becoming a new creation. Paul tells us again in Colossians about what happens when we “leave our self.” “You have put off the old person with their deeds, and have put on the new person who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Colossians 3:9-10).”
Part of this “leaving the old behind” is addressed later in this stanza when Christ asks us directly; Will you care for cruel and kind? Will you care for your brothers and sisters – making the conscious decision to leave their failings and attributes to God, and help them regardless? Can you stop judging long enough to care for them both physically and spiritually? Will you risk the hostile stare – or worse will you risk your life (which can mean your comfort) should your caring attract the negativity of others or even the shunning of those who disagree with you. Can you believe that you are in fact a “new creation?”