500) Don’t Be A Follower!? (part one)

     Little Jimmy said to his mother, “Mom, can I go to the park with David?”
      His mother immediately replied, “No, you cannot go to the park with David.  You know I don’t like that kid.  He’s nothing but trouble.”
     “But mom,” Jimmy whined, “we’re only going to the park.”
     His mother replied, “It would not matter if you told me you were going to church with that kid, you are not going with David.  The last time I let you play with David your dad ended up paying for six broken windows at the old Nelson place.  You aren’t going with David and that’s final.”
     “But mom,” said Jimmy, “all the other kids are going.”
     Then mom, starting to get angry, said, “I don’t care what all the other kids are doing.  If all the other kids were going to jump off the river bridge, would you want to do that too?  Don’t be such a follower all the time.”
     Most kids hear that same advice many times in their childhood.  It is a big worry for parents.  Kids are so very influenced by peer pressure and so much depends on the good or bad character of the kids they hang around with.  And one of the most important things kids need to learn is to be able to think for themselves and not just follow blindly wherever the crowd goes.
     The Bible gives the same advice, saying in Romans 12, “Be not conformed to the patterns of this world.”  And in Philippians chapter two, Paul writes, “Be blameless and pure as you stand firm and hold out against this wicked and depraved generation.”  Hold out, stand firm, do not conform– don’t be a follower.  It is good advice and if followed could save many people a lot of grief.  Many times on the news after yet another teenager is arrested you will see friends and family being interviewed, and they will often say the same thing; they will say, “He was a good boy, but then he started to follow the wrong crowd.”
     But sometimes it seems like Jesus has a different message.  In John 10 Jesus refers to himself as a shepherd, and to us as sheep who should follow the shepherd.  In other words, Jesus is telling us to be followers.  Jesus even tells us that we should be like sheep, saying in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they FOLLOW ME.”
     The difference is obvious.  It all depends on who you are following!  Jesus oftentimes uses this illustration of sheep following a shepherd.  And Jesus said of himself, “I am the Good Shepherd, follow me.”  And then Jesus warns us against following just anyone, like wicked shepherds who do not love or care about the sheep.  “Follow me,” Jesus said, “believe in me, trust in me.  I am the good shepherd.  I will lay down my life for my sheep.”
     Parents know this too.  It is not so much the following that they worry about, it is following the wrong person, the wrong crowd.  It is every parent’s wish that their children have good friends who can be trusted and who will be a good influence on them.
     On another day, Jimmy said to his mother, “Mom, Billy wants me to go with him down to the river to play.   Can I go?”
     “Yes,” said his mother, “Billy is a good boy and a sensible boy and I’m sure you will be all right with him.”
     Jimmy, surprised, says, “But mom, I said we are going down to the river to play.  You never let me go down to the river.”
     Mom said, “That’s because you always want to go with David, and David is a rascal and a trouble maker and a bad influence.  But you never before asked to go along with Billy.  Billy is a good boy and uses his head.  I’m just glad to see you want to play with someone other than David.”
     Jimmy, interested in seeing how far this would go, said, “But mom, we are all going to jump off the bridge.”
     And mom said, “I’m not worried.  Billy is a good boy.  I am sure that if you are with him, you will be careful.  Run along now and have fun.”
     That is, of course, an exaggeration.  But the point is Billy has earned the trust of Jimmy’s mother, and so she doesn’t mind it if Jimmy follows him.  Even with kids, following can be a good thing.  It all depends on who or what you are following.  It changes everything to know that the one you are following can be trusted.  (continued…)
Romans 12:1a  —  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Philippians 2:14-16a  —  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.
John 10:27  —  (Jesus said),  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ

For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

–St. Richard of Chichester  (1197-1253)