I once considered pasting the bumper sticker on my car that reads, “Question Authority,” except I questioned where they got off telling me who to question. I must admit I’m not the greatest follower. In that I am not alone.
Though rare, we can often name great leaders. Not so, great followers. Today’s readings testify to that. Even Jesus’ disciples are famous for how often they failed to follow. And how tired poor Samuel sounds after leading stiff necked Israel from his “youth until this day.”
“Here I stand,” he challenges. “Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed.”
There seem to be a slew of poor followers. What makes for a good follower?
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
1 Samuel 12:1-13:22
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Samuel 12:1-13:22: Samuel says farewell using the familiar formula of other leaders from Israel’s past. He retells of God’s faithfulness and the people’s unfaithfulness. Only the names and times seem to change. Israel now moves into living under its fourth system of government: from slaves of Pharaoh to nomads under Moses and a loose system of priests and tribal leaders to freedom under tribal leaders and judges to a flawed kingship.
John 7:1-29: Jesus didn’t seem to want people to follow him, even his brothers, for what he could do for them, miracles for example. Rather he seems to be seeking followers interested in an authentic relationship with him. He wants us to “know him,” verse 28. This is more than knowledge about, but rather an intimacy of heart and mind.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
One of the highest values of our modern world is to be an independent thinker, to question authority. Poet Robert Frost intones, “take the road less travelled by.” To be sure there is value in avoiding group think and mindlessly believing every crazy email that pops up in your inbox. But believing you alone have found the road not taken and dutifully trooping off into Robert Frost’s woods is equally mindless.
In “The Way of the Wild Heart” John Eldredge tells of a swampy, dangerous section of wilderness in Alaska that has a scanty trail wending through it. To go off the trail is to drown in a muddy morass. It’s “an ancient and fearful path through a wild and untamed place” that was blazed by generations of grizzly bears that live in the area. Eldredge says the young bears find their way through by placing their young feet in the prints of those who have gone before. They are good followers.
This, of course is a metaphor for how we humans too can find our way through “wild and untamed” places by becoming good followers. Good followers think for themselves but they also listen to those God has placed in relational authority around them. Jesus calls us to know him and then follow him. Above all they listen to and obey God. They look up and around to other followers of God in times of need. Unlike Israel in Samuel’s time and Jesus’ brothers’ in Jesus time and too many of us modern-minded Western types today, good followers do not believe they are self-made or independent islands. Good followers are comfortable stepping in the footprints God has left in the form of other God-followers. They connect with a faith community, not mindlessly, but engaged heart, mind and soul. Good followers are God-followers. And good followers are then the best leaders.
I still like breaking my own trail. If you don’t believe me, just look at my bruises and scars. But even in the wilderness I keep finding the marks and footprints of the One with the deepest scars, the One who went before, the One I can follow: Jesus.
- Has there been a time you followed someone to a place God was leading?
- Have you ever refused to follow and gotten lost in the woods?
- Who is the best leader you can think of?
- Is that person a good follower too?
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