When you play “Follow the Leader” as a kid, it always starts out nice and simple. You’re just walking in a line. Then your leader starts to hop on one foot, and then another, and then he’s flapping his arms, and then he’s skipping, and all of a sudden, you’ve lost the pattern. It’s not always easy to follow the leader, especially if you get distracted. Maybe you see the big kids playing soccer across the playground or you trip over a rock on the sidewalk.
It’s not just kid stuff. We have trouble following our Leader, too. Paul’s noticed that in chapter 6 of 1st Corinthians. He tells the Corinthians to focus. They’re getting distracted by worldly things. Instead of keeping their eyes on the prize, they’re saying, “All things are lawful for me.” Paul doesn’t approve of that slogan, pointing out that “not all things are helpful” (verse 12).
Putting your whole focus on the Law is a distraction from the Gospel. If you point out that technically something is permissible but ignore the fact that it’s still not a good idea, you’re missing the point. Everything we say and do is a reflection on the person we’re following. So when we’re focusing on the minutiae and trying to redeem ourselves, that’s saying something about the person we’re following. Is that the message we want to send about Jesus?
When you were a kid, your leader would stop and wait, maybe come back to help you up so the Follow the Leader game could keep going. That’s what Jesus does for us. He knows that we get distracted, and he always comes to find us and guide us back onto the narrow path. Sometimes he sends others to get you. Sometimes, you yourself might be sent to bring others in. It’s all motivated by the gift of salvation that is meant to be shared. If we focus on that gift, we will be able to push away the distractions and follow Jesus.