Lent Challenge – “Follow”
Is there a difference between being a follower or a fan?
Do you follow anything? Or anyone? Most of us do. We follow football teams or sports generally; we follow celebrities and quite a lot of us follow a religion.
But what does it mean to follow someone? It’s easy when we come to football teams isn’t it? We may wear the team colours, or we might go to watch them play each week. We might hold a season ticket so that we are guaranteed a seat in the stadium, and that we are showing to the club that we follow them. If we are interested enough, we might learn some statistics about our team. We might compile facts about who played when, and what score was achieved last time we played the local derby match, or what the average goal score is when such-and-such player is on the field. We might go a bit further and hold opinions on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the players, and feel we are in an informed position to comment on the future plans to sign the next big striker to come out of our European rivals. But does that really mean that we follow the team, or are we simply a fan? With the more in-depth knowledge and opinion we have on the club we might even consider ourselves to be super-fans.
What about celebrities then? Can the same be said for them?
Perhaps we can if it is a musician or band that we follow, and where we can go and see them perform. A bit difficult if it is an actor who lives on the other side of the world and who is only ever seen on screen or by the paparazzi, but we can still keep up with what they are up to or where they have been on holiday or something. We could follow individual sports stars, and like my point above, we can learn as much as there is to know about them and their performance and so on, but again, does this make us followers or fans?
When it comes to religion, we can ask the same questions of ourselves. Do we know the Bible, the Torah or the Quran inside out? Can we quote chapter and verse on any topic to suit our argument? Can we recite the Psalms, or great swathes of Leviticus or Paul’s letters? Do we acquire knowledge about our particular religion like the sports fans or celebrity spotters as above?
If so, can we honestly say that we are followers of a particular religion, or does it make us simply super-fans?
For me, there is a big difference between following a religion and living it out in daily life. I am a Christian but I don’t consider myself to be very religious. I consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and I try to live my life with his instructions at the centre of it. I would hope that just because I strive for further knowledge and understanding about the Kingdom of God it doesn’t make me just a fan of his. I would hope that it goes a bit deeper than that, in the sense that I try to emulate him.
And that for me, is what it is to be a follower and not simply a fan of someone. We can admire, we can applaud, we can praise and worship but until and unless we try to actually be like that someone, we can’t really call ourselves followers.
Of course, there is the opposite to “following” and that is “leading”. But that’s for another blog post on another day.