Jesus made it clear that following Him would be costly.
It was the last game of the season, and it would be my last game in junior high. It would also be a game that would haunt me for years.
We were playing Eastland, Texas, a team with which we were tied for first place in our district. We had played to a 0-0 tie until late in the third quarter. The other team had a very fast halfback named Ruben. All night, we had managed to keep him contained.
I had been playing left defensive tackle all night, but on one particular play, we reversed our lineup, and I was on the right side of the line. I have relived that play over and over again in my mind over the years. As I remember the play, it is as if I am watching it in slow motion. However, at the time, it happened in anything but slow motion.
The other team had the ball on their own 30 yard line, and they ran a sweep to their, our left, away from my side of the field. Their fastest runner Ruben was carrying the ball. I recognized the play and set a pursuit course to my left to try to intercept their halfback, since he had managed to elude all of our other defenders.
He was fast, and my angle of pursuit was not quite enough to cut him off. I found myself in a footrace about 3 yards behind him. I have never run faster in my life!
Although I matched his pace step for step, I just could not close that three yard gap. My heart sank as I chased him into the end zone. We lost eight to nothing.
After the game, as I was on my way back to the field house, some of my school mates who had been watching the game began to comment to me on the play. “Hey, Al,” one said, “you sure were moving …” Then he added, “Why didn’t you jump at him?”
Another one shouted, “Hey, Al, why didn’t you catch that guy?”
Still another said something like, “You need to learn to run faster!” Never mind that the fellow I had been chasing was the junior high district 100 yard dash champion.
All of these folks that commented had been watching from the stands. They had not played the game. They had not even tried out for the football team. These were merely fans. However, that night, they were no fans of mine.
It reminds me of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They are now the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they started out in Brooklyn. Do you remember what the “fans” used to call them when they would lose to the New York Giants? The fans would refer to them as “Dem Bums.” When things went well, the fans were right on board, but if things did not go well, those same fans called them “Dem Bums.”
That is the way is it with many Christians. Many of us are mere fans. We admire Jesus, especially when things are going well.
However, Jesus didn’t call us to be fans; he called us to be followers. Over 20 times in the Gospels, Jesus called people by saying, “Follow me …” And Jesus made it clear that following Him would be costly.
Jesus does not want admirers. He wants people who are committed to follow Him no matter what the cost.
At 2:00 p.m. this coming Sunday, June 8, at our church we will be showing a movie called “Not a Fan.” It is free to the public, complete with popcorn. I invite you to come and watch this dramatic story of a man who learned the difference between being a fan and a follower of Jesus.
(The Rev. Al Henager is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Heber Springs, Arkansas. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)