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Are True Disciples Possible in an Age of Twitter?

When I entered the Twitter world in May 2012 with @BestBibleTweets, I set a goal that seemed audacious at the time: gaining 4,000 followers within one year. However, that goal was surpassed in just six months, and I’m now reflecting on having reached the new  milestone of 15,000 Twitter followers.

Although this accomplishment is exhilarating in many ways, it’s also a time of sober reevaluation. At each new milestone, I’ve found myself facing honest questions, like “Do Twitter followers count for anything in eternity?” … “Are any lives really changed?” … And “Do my supposed followers even read  my tweets?”

Reaching the 15,000-follower mark seems to have special significance from a biblical standpoint. You probably remember the story of Jesus feeding 5,000+ hungry people on a Galilean hillside. When women and children are counted, it's likely that around 15,000 people were fed, comparable to my present number of Twitter followers.

This is one of my favorite events in the Bible—but it had a troubling aftermath.

After Jesus fed the multitudes in John 6, He began to explain the cost of true discipleship. Instead of just involving miracles and free meals, it turned out that a real follower had to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood”  (v. 53). Hmmm…so much for easy believism or greasy grace.

And while Jesus’ day began with thousands of fair-weather followers, it ended with only the Twelve remaining. The text says that many of those who turned away after hearing His “hard teachings”  had actually considered themselves to be “disciples”  (v. 66). Yes, this is a troubling story indeed.

Jesus finally asked His 12 remaining followers, “Do you also want to go away?”  (v. 67) What a question! You see, it’s one thing to say you’re following Jesus when everyone else is—when it’s the culturally expected thing to do. But what if the tide of public opinion is flowing in the opposite direction? Where will you stand in that day?

Peter’s response to Jesus’ question has often been portrayed as heroic, but I’m not sure that’s quite accurate. He replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”  (v. 68).

Yes, Peter was absolutely correct that there was no one else he could follow who would be able to provide eternal life (see John 14:6). Yet his response could also be interpreted to imply several less virtuous traits: (1) Peter seems to have already given some thought  to what his “other options” might be, and (2) he perhaps would have been open to some other option if it seemed a feasible alternative.

Could it be that Peter was secretly wishing there was some other  Messiah who had a “kinder and gentler” message? Or was he tempted to regret that he and his fellow disciples had left behind their fishing nets, tax offices, and other occupations to put their destiny squarely in Jesus’ hands?

Regardless of what Peter may have been thinking at the time, he made the right choice in the end. So I guess it’s OK to wrestle with God’s call as long as we ultimately heed it.

I hope some of my 15,000+ Twitter followers will read this blog post. And I pray that a few will count the cost and become true disciples of Jesus.

What about you? Are you only following Christ because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do among your friends or family? Are you willing to follow even if others turn away at His hard teachings, after they’ve received their fill of miracles, bread, and fish?

Be honest.

 

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