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Monday, 3 March 2014

Following Jesus.

As those who know me well are aware, I believe that the term 'Christian' has been so badly devalued - at least in the 'developed' west - that it has become close to meaningless.  Nowadays, I usually refer to 'disciples of Jesus' instead.

However, in the earliest days of the church, those people were often known simply as 'followers of the Way'.  In the Greek language of the New Testament, there are a number of words for 'following' each of which has a slightly different meaning from the rest.  Three of them are: 'akoloutheo', 'epakoloutheo', and 'parakoloutheo' (you can see the common root!).  So what are the differences?

'akoloutheo' suggests following - but at a distance.  This, sadly, is the way in which many, today, follow Jesus.  They are not very close to Him; indeed, they may be a long way off.  Have you ever watched a film in which the police are 'tailing' the car of a suspect?  The first thing they must be certain of is that the suspect doesn't become suspicious.  However, equally important is that they don't allow themselves to get too far behind, as then they may lose sight of their target!  If we follow Jesus at too great a distance, we run the danger of doing the same thing - of losing sight of Him!  It is possible for so many things to come between Him and us.  We may be taken up by so many things that are not bad in themselves, but that gradually destroy the passion of our first love for the Lord.  His Lordship in our lives becomes secondary.   He is a distant figure Whom we are following, but with Whom we have lost any real relationship.

The second word, 'epakoloutheo', is more intimate.  It means 'to follow close to a person'.  It has the idea of being so close as to be walking in the person's footsteps.   I know that we are officially into spring-time (at least in the northern hemisphere!), but I find myself thinking of the Christmas song, 'Good King Wenceslas'.  Remember that verse that tells us that the king encouraged his servant to walk in his footsteps so that he would not be as cold?  That's the sort of picture that 'epakoloutheo' paints for us.

Then there is 'parakoloutheo'.  This is the most intimate word of all.  It means to be following someone so closely that one is walking alongside the other person.  It suggests companionship, rather than servanthood.  In John 15:15, we read these recorded words of the Lord Jesus to His closest disciples: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends , for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."

I wonder, is this what the Lord is saying to many of us today?  "Don't walk at a distance; don't even walk closely behind me; walk beside me. Be My companion on the way; share the road with Me; allow Me to share more and more of Myself with you!"  I love the Old Testament saint, Enoch, of whom it is recorded: "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Gen 5:24).  Enoch walked so closely with the Lord that, when his time on earth was over, he just walked through the veil into eternity. (see my book, Great Words of the Faith).

Where are you walking, today, in relation to Jesus?   Are you merely following Him at a distance, sometimes losing sight of Him completely?  Or perhaps you are walking just a little behind Him, but still missing some of what He would say to you!   Why don't you come alongside Him, and enjoy His presence day by day?  It will be for your own good, and will bring glory to His Name.

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