We are called to become followers of Christ.
Read Matthew 10:32-39
"He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
Are we Christians or followers? The options may seem redundant, but there is a radical difference. A Christian is one who affirms the truths of scripture and confesses allegiance to a church. But a follower is one who gives up everything to follow Christ.
In Matthew 10, Christ summons his disciples and prepares them to send them into the region to proclaim the Gospel. However, before he sends them, he gives them extensive instruction. He warns them that their ministry will not be a comfortable journey, for they will encounter opposition and rejection (vs. 16-23). He then proceeds to highlight the meaning of discipleship. Here, we get a glimpse into the difference between one who claims to be a Christian and one who is a genuine follower. In verses 32-33, he challenges them to publicly confesses their faith. A true disciple of Christ is not silent regarding their faith; instead, they readily admit to others that they follow Christ, even if that confession results in people rejecting them (vs. 31-33).
To further drive his point home that a disciple is more than mere confession, Christ challenges them with a perspective that at first glance seem contradictory to our view of Christ as the promoter of love and peace. Christ portrays a very confrontational viewpoint when he states that he did not come into the world to bring peace on earth but to bring a sword. Christ makes it clear that the peace he brings is not the absence of strife but the peace with God that comes when sin is overcome, and salvation is attained. This brings us into conflict with a world bent on the pursuit of their desires. Throughout scripture, we are warned that we cannot embrace both Christ and the world's morality and ethos (see 1 John 2:15). The two are mutually exclusive. Christ came to restore righteousness; the world rejects Christ and his righteousness in pursuit of pleasures and desires.
This then brings us to his statement that a genuine disciple is the one who is a follower of Christ no matter the cost. He is one who recognizes the cost of being identified with Christ and sets aside all other loyalties, even familial commitments, to affirm our absolute loyalty to Christ. To illustrate, he points to the cross. For the disciples, this was a graphic image, for the cross was a place of punishment and death. When a person took up his cross, he was under a death sentence, and there was no escape and no turning back. The cross, in this instance, symbolized the complete renunciation of self. To become a follower of Christ, one must completely give up his/her former way of life. We are to set aside all our dreams and desires and become singularly focused. Our relationship with Christ is now not only the highest priority; it is the only priority. This one pursuit governs everything else. This is what confronts us with modern Christianity. We want a safe religion that is undemanding and benign. We want to go to church on Sunday, sings songs of worship, be moved emotionally with the promises of God's comfort, and then live the rest of the week as we please in pursuit of our ambitions. But in these words, Christ dispels this and calls to be followers who give up everything, including life itself. For when we give up everything, we fully attain all that Christ desires to give us. So again, we must ask, "Are you a Christian or a Follower?"