It was Ghandi who once commented that if he’d have known Christians to live out what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7 which you should really read or re-read) he would have become a Christian. Now whatever you may or may not think of Ghandi, the point I take from this is that those teachings of Jesus describe what a person who claims to follow him should look like.
Please notice I did not say that those teachings are the rules by which a Jesus follower is to live. In fact Jesus makes the point that following him isn’t about keeping rules but being set free from rules to follow him with wild abandon.
That statement is going to make some of you uncomfortable because you like things to be safe and predictable. I have news for you: Jesus is neither safe nor predictable, but, as C. S. Lewis said, he is good.
Now some others of you are going to think that means I’m suggesting you’re free to live by your own rules, and that’s not true either. You do not set the rules and Jesus follows you, you follow Jesus no matter what regardless of what the expectations of culture and religion are.
There is an allegory someone’s written that’s well worth the read comparing following Jesus like this to riding a tandem bicycle with him. You can find it on-line here: www.cs.cmu.edu/~bsinger/roadlife.html
But to help you put some handles on Jesus’ description of one who follows him, I’ve tried to summarize it in a couple of paragraphs. It is undoubtedly an imperfect attempt, but hopefully it will still be of some value:
The Sermon on the Mount describes a person who is humble and dependant on God; a person who follows Jesus with passionate and reckless abandon, who is courageous and strong in the face of adversity and oppression and on behalf of those who are oppressed.
This person enriches the community he or she lives in, making it a better place to live for everyone through caring for the needs of their neighbors and neighborhood. Their lifestyle and character is respected by those who know them, but not because they religiously follow a set of rules, rather, because their actions flow out of a transformed nature that transcends any set of rules or laws.
This person is devout but not religious, upright but full of grace and mercy, hardworking but not frenetic or anxious. It is a person who demonstrates confidence knowing his or her future has been set by God himself and so always seems to have time for others.
The Sermon on the Mount describes Jesus, and in ever increasing measure, those who truly follow him.