followPlunge into the Gospels anywhere and you will likely find Jesus asking someone to follow. The Greek verb is akoloutheo. It represents a dominant motif. Why, then, do we hear so little about following Jesus in the church today?

I’ve been in, with, and around the church for more than 60 years. Not when I was in confirmation class; not when I joined the church; not when I became a candidate for the ministry; not when I was ordained; and never in any of my services of installation.

Always the questions have dealt with belief. ‘Do you believe in God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do you believe in the veracity of the Scriptures and the Confessions? Do you believe in the unity and purity of the church?
“Do you believe in Christ?

It isn’t hard to answer that. What is wanted is an affirmative response to treasured propositions about the Second Person of the Trinity. But when someone asks, ‘Are you following Jesus?’ this can get to be expensive. This question has to do with my lifestyle, my attitudes, my values, my surrender.

If I’m following Jesus, why am I such a good insurance risk? If I’m following Jesus, why, when I have done my giving, have I so much left over for myself? If I’m following Jesus, why do my closets bulge when so many are unclothed? If I’m following Jesus, why do I have so many friends among the affluent and so few among the poor? If I’m following Jesus, why do I have so much privacy in a world that is starved for love? If I’m following Jesus, why am I tempted to overeat in a world in which so many beg for bread? If I’m following Jesus, why am I getting on so well in a world that marked Him out for death?

Are you following Jesus or believing in Christ? Unfair, you say; the two are inseparable. Theoretically, yes, but pragmatically, no. We separate them all the time. If we must, let us err on the side of following—for one can believe without following, but one cannot follow without believing.

(from Lectionary notes by Dr. Harry Wendt)