Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On people lost in forests...

Picture this. A man is lost in a dense forest. He's been lost for a few days. Hungry. Cold. Tired and wet. He's in trouble.

Fortunately, one of his best friends realises he hasn't returned as expected and goes looking for him, calling out every few seconds. Just after midday on the second day he's been searching for him, he hears his friend.

"Geoff, is that you?!"

"Sure is mate!" Geoff says as he catches a glimpse of his lost friend, Jamie, through the trees.

"Thank God you found me!" The two exhange a warm brotherly hug and sit down, and Geoff gives his friend some warm dry clothes, a few energy bars and a drink.

After a few minutes, Geoff sees that Jamie's got plenty of energy left to walk back out. He gets up and motions Jamie to follow him. "Let's get going. I've got a GPS and a map, so I can lead you out. We're having a party at my place - they'll be a spit roast, BBQ, plenty of drinks - it'll be great. We'll be able to make it there before dinner if we leave now."

But instead, Jamie makes himself comfortable where he's seated. "No, it's hard walking through the forest and it's so great to have you with me here, so I'd rather just stay and talk with you. All I need is to have you here with me."

Of course, you'll probably think that Jamie is being a bit silly, and this response seems very unlikely. Yet I think it reflects a little of what Christians sometimes do. They sometimes make having a "personal relationship with God" so all-important that forget about following Jesus. The forest represents behaviour and character attributes that are harmful to us - "sin", to use some Christian jargon. The party outside the forest represents the righteous way of life that Jesus showed people to live. The point of the story is that Jesus wanted to free us from sin into righteousness in a real, tangible way. God loves us too much to not mind if we continue to hurt ourselves and others with wrong thoughts, words and behaviour.

Perhaps it doesn't occur to some Christians that there is in fact a righteous way of life that is (at least comparatively) free of sin. They can't see the proverbial wood from the trees and think "it's all forest" out there, so there's no use in trying to escape sin because we can't. But Jesus' message was good news precisely because he showed them a way to be free from the hurt of sin - his message is that there really is a place outside of the forest and he can show us the way.

But being freed means we need to actually follow him, just like in the story above. Jesus wanted to help us learn the art of living so that we could truly enjoy a fulfilling life and help others do the same. That means we have to take some responsibility to take some action. Yes, Jesus said it comes at a price. He said it would be difficult sometimes. But he also said it would be worth it, and I am finding that it is.

So, the moral of the story is that Jesus came to show us "The Way" to live, not to just give us "The Personal Relationship" to have. When he said "follow me", I think he meant it.

1 comment:

stan said...

yeah but Geoff didn't mention that the way out of the forest involves lots of pain and suffering, also that he doesn't have any actual proof the party is happening you need faith, and the earlier brotherly hug and food he gave him was actually poisonous and he'd turn around and stab him in the back any moment, and also Jamie probably has a whole bunch of family and friends in the forest too and they're living a great life and don't need to get out of the forest and the thought that he'd get out just to save himself and leave them behind would be stupid and inhumane