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Followers and Admirers

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”
“Could that point by any chance be—the cross?”
“That's right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I'm not getting myself crucified.”
“Then I don't believe you're a disciple. You're an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you're an admirer not a disciple.”
“Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn't have a church, would we?”
“The question,” Clarence said, “is, 'Do you have a church?'”
~ From a dialogue in Biography as Theology by James McClendon.
Stanley Hauerwas quotes this bit of dialogue in his “theological commentary” on Matthew in order to further emphasize the difference between Jesus' disciples and the crowds who also gathered around Jesus. The disciples, Hauerwas argues, are those who follow Jesus and who end up suffering with him; the crowds, Hauerwas goes on to say, are those who admire Jesus but, at the end of the day, also call for Jesus' crucifixion.
This is an interesting point to keep in mind, especially considering the observation that most everybody these days seems to profess admiration for Jesus. Yes, we say that Jesus was a good man… but we live lives that are sustained by crucifixions. And the question is, “Do we have a church?” Are we followers or admirers?

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