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I am a follower of Christ

By Curt Harlow

“I am a follower of Christ.”

I had chicken wire in one hand and tissue paper in the other when I first uttered those words. Jeanine, the teenage girl working on our homecoming float next to me, had asked, “What do you believe about Jesus?”

I was not sure what to say. Just two months earlier I had started reading the Bible. One night as I went to “borrow” my older sister’s Elton John album I noticed a thick book on her shelf and impulsively nabbed it too. At 16 I didn’t know the difference between St. Mark and Mark Twain. That was about to change as I began to take a strange journey that fate-filled night.

Alone in bed, I opened the stolen Scriptures to Matthew’s Gospel. I was riveted from word one. The busting fishnets, healed lepers and mysterious parables intoxicated me. It was no wonder people followed Jesus. I wanted to drop everything and travel with this anti-establishment miracle-working Storyteller. Up mountains, into boats and through town after town a gaggle of humanity clamored after Him. As I read, I was among them.

I quickly learned that not everyone kept up. A rich man left so he could hold on to his possessions. I wondered what I would give up to follow Jesus? Some people came to Him with dramatic claims of devotion. He rebuked their spiritual boasting with promises of cold and bedless nights. I wondered what inconveniences I would tolerate for Him?

Jesus did not mince words: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” He demanded. At that time I did not fully understand the slow suffocation and nerve-piercing torture that “his cross” implied. In spite of my lack of understanding about crucifixion, I knew that this cross thing was a call to something more profound than mere religion.

In the end many left Jesus. There was a distinction between the crowds at the mountaintop and the few that remained at the cross. True followers wanted more than bread, fish and stories. For the privilege of being near the healing power and life-changing words, they walked with Jesus on a narrow and often tiring path. Those who remained had forgotten who they were. They had been changed forever by the journey with Him.

After Jeanine listened to my stolen Bible story she asked, “Are you born again?” I had only read Matthew and did not know this phrase from John, yet I immediately said, “Yes, that happened to me.”

Pressing my claims, she asked, “Are you a real Christian?”

I was confused, unsure what to say.

She explained that some people use the name of Jesus but do not really follow Him.

Right then it occurred to me I had to make a choice. I could be a part of the crowd that thronged around Jesus in the beginning but was nowhere to be found at the end, or I could take up my cross and follow.

When I said it, I was not making a declaration — I was having an epiphany. Jesus had called me. I would leave all to be with Him always.

“I am a follower of Christ,” I said.

CURT HARLOW is the area director of West Coast Chi Alpha.

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