One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. ~Matthew 4:18-22
I didn’t fit in with the cool kids. I didn’t wear the latest fashions, follow the current celebrity hairstyle trends, or take the time to apply make-up. I was quiet and shy and a little bit of a nerd. And even though I sometimes felt left out and a little lonely, I chose not to change who I was. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I did not want to follow the crowd.
After all, that’s the way I was raised. My parents believed in me—they honored the things that made me unique. They told me I could be anything I wanted to be. They encouraged me to accept , and even to like, the things that made me different from my peers. My mom and dad lived their faith, and taught me to hold tightly to what I believed. They prepared me to be strong and resistant when confronted with peer-pressure. No, my parents did not want me to follow the crowd.
I’m grateful for the way I was raised. The lessons I was taught are lessons I value, and they are lessons my husband and I passed on to our children. “Be true to yourself.” “God made you special.” And most importantly, “Don’t follow the crowd.”
But, wait a minute. What about the stories of Jesus and his ministry that I read about in the Scriptures? Jesus asked Peter and Andrew to follow Him. Then He called out to James and John, who followed Peter and Andrew, who followed Jesus. More disciples were called and more disciples followed. A crowd was forming, and everywhere they went more people followed the crowd.
Were the disciples being true to themselves when they followed Jesus? I think so. Did the disciples lose their identity when they joined the crowd? No. Peter was still Peter, but better. He was still strong, stubborn, and hard-working, but instead of casting nets for fish, he was now fishing for people. Andrew, James, and John were still the unique persons God had created them to be, but better. Matthew was still Matthew, but better.
And what about the stories of Paul and his ministry? When Saul encountered the risen Christ, and his name was changed to Paul, he was still the educated, aristocratic, zealous man he had been before. But Paul chose to follow the crowd of believers who were taking the Gospel message into the world. When he did so, all of the traits that had made him an enemy of the Gospel before, were the traits that made him a strong church leader. He became an apostle who courageously transformed the world within his reach—calling all Jews and Gentiles to follow the way of the living Christ.
Do you want that? I do. I want to use the things that make me unique—the gifts given to me by God, to become a more courageous and faithful follower of Christ. I want to live my life in a way that makes others want to follow the crowd I follow. Because, maybe it’s okay for us to follow the crowd, as long as we are following the crowd that is following Jesus.