The real world is not a map that we can enjoy looking at, remembering the places we’ve been or where we would like to be. No, but it is useful to have a map if we want to find our way to a destination in the real world. In fact, we may never find our way without one.
In the same way, the Christian life is not a book we can enjoy reading, remembering the events it tells of taking place in the remote and harmless past or looking forward to things that are yet to come. No, but it is useful, in fact, it is indispensable, to have a book if we want to live the life that the book describes, but only if we put into practice what we find written in it.
We all know what book it is that tells us the way, but because we are tired of reading it, we never quite get where we say we want to be. We live not by the book but by our feelings about it and ‘love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love,’ when it suits us, thinking that our word of confession, or holding the right beliefs, saves us.
But no, it isn’t like that, it never was, it isn’t now, and it never will be. We shall not arrive at the promised land by looking at the map, or just reading about others who tried and died trying in the book, or dreaming of arriving at a destination that we’ve made up for ourselves by casual and sporadic study.
The map isn’t real, but the ground we stand on. The roads and places it shows are not the traveling and arriving, just a picture. No matter how long we gaze at it, we will never arrive. The book isn’t real, unless it is more than mere stories. The Jesus it tells of is just a myth unless we give up mere reading and start heeding, and salvation not a tool but a pretty toy to tantalize ourselves and others unless we use it.
Use salvation? Jesus just a myth? The bible just a story? No better than a map for our fantasies? Yes, it is all for nothing, the highest price ever paid for a ticket to the only destination ever worth going to, that we simply trash, despise and discard, or play with when it suits us. And we are offended if anyone implies that we are not being faithful.
Lord, have mercy on us. We have despised Your call and preferred to listen to everyone else but You, and changed Your words into anything but what You say. We look at Your picture and worship it, saying it is You we worship, and then we turn to our mirrors and glory in what we see, not knowing it is our shame. You have made us for You, but we have stolen ourselves. Lord, have mercy on us. Call us. Bring us back. Make us want You.