followers, not admirers

Yesterday I found this in an excerpt from one of Soren Kierkegaard's writings:

It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression "follower." He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

...Admirers make the same demands that are made in the theater: to sit safe and calm. Admirers are only all too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger. As such, they refuse to accept that Christ's life is a demand. ...[If] they honestly see Christ for who he is, they are no longer able to experience the tranquillity they so much seek after. They know full well that to associate with him too closely amounts to being up for examination. Even though he says nothing against them personally, they know that his life tacitly judges theirs.

...Now suppose that there is no longer any special danger, as it no doubt is in so many of our Christian countries, bound up with publicly confessing Christ. The difference between following and admiring still remains. Forget about this danger connected with confessing Christ and think rather of the real danger which is inescapably bound up with being a Christian. Does not the Way--Christ's requirement to die to the world and deny self [in the midst of a society that does the opposite]--does this not contain enough danger?

...The admirer always plays it safe. Though in word he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what he supposedly admires. ...The follower aspires with all his strength to be what he admires. And then, remarkably enough, even though he is living amongst a "Christian people," he incurs the same peril as he did when it was dangerous to openly confess Christ.

"[We] know full well that to associate with him too closely amounts to being up for examination..." So we imagine a Christ set apart from us, who we can admire--but never be.

This may even be the case in the Catholic Worker emphasis on "seeing Christ in the poor" (illustrated in this popular picture, "Christ of the Breadlines" by Fritz Eichenberg) or "serving Christ in the poor" (based on Mt 25, which I've written about before: here, here, and here). This seems to be a humble attitude to take, seeing "the other" as Christ. Just as it seems humble to say "I'm only human." But seeing Christ in others, loving Christ in others, serving Christ in others, is still setting ourselves apart from Christ, distancing ourselves to some extent.

And Jesus prayed that he be, not "the other" to us, but in us:
"I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word... that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (Jn 17.20,26)
And Jesus taught his followers that they would be his presence, his body, in the world: "He who receives you receives me... He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me..." (Mt 10.40, Lk 10.16)

To accept the call to be the presence of Christ in the world is not prideful--terrifying is the better word. Because we constantly must face the "examination" of his life compared to ours. And the dangers of following his Way. We recall that when Jesus said, "It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master," (in Mt 10) he was sending out his followers "as sheep in the midst of wolves."