What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?
Now, in asking this question, I mean, at its core, what is the essence of the Christian faith? What does it look like? What are its values?
Jesus answered some of these questions in a passage known as “The Beatitudes,” which can be found in Matthew 5:3-10. If you have your Bible near, feel free to turn there now, and as you read, whether for the first or the hundredth time, compare and contrast the attitudes and actions that Jesus names with your own idea of what a “good Christian” looks like. Do they differ?
If studying these verses fills you up with questions, you’re not alone. But let me leave you with a few things I gained from my study, which I hope will encourage and challenge you as you search these verses for yourself.
None of these things will bring glory in this world.
Many of the things that Jesus names in these verses go unnoticed and possibly even result in rejection by the world. For example, “poor in spirit,” is a term used to describe someone who realizes their own spiritual poverty, their dependency on God and inability to work their way to Him. Dependency, poverty, inability—do those sound like precursors to glory in this world?
Few of these things can be seen from a public platform.
A common theme throughout Jesus’ teaching is humility and servanthood. He said, “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:26,28). The secret to greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven is smallness in this life.
Even if these things bring suffering, we are in good company!
Think about all those who have gone before us, the “great cloud of witnesses” that the writer of Hebrews describes. The apostles, the early Church, the prophets, Jesus Himself. Did any of these find popularity and acceptance in the world? Did any of them have ease or comfort?
Finally, and most importantly, none of these are works that we can do independently of God.
James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). This does not mean that works save us but rather that works will be the natural result of a life submitted to Christ. It is the same way with the Beatitudes. This is not some “Christian ideal” that we must aspire to for its own sake. Rather, it will be the natural result of a life that is in continual, daily submission to Christ.
So what does it mean to be a follower of Christ? It means embarking upon the lifelong task of knowing God better and better and submitting to His will for our lives. It means forsaking favor and popularity in this world for the blessing that is to come. It means allowing God to change us from the inside out, and it is the daily struggle of choosing Him over the temptations of this world.