In the days before college, loans, bills, and family responsibilities, I traveled across the world on various mission trips in far away lands. I learned rather quickly that when you find yourself in a foreign land with foreign customs and a foreign language there will always be some conniving trickster planning a way to part you from your cash in a less than ethical way. In fact, if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, your very safety could be in danger. Your ignorance is dangerous. When in a strange new place you need someone you can trust. You need someone who has been there, who speaks the language. Someone who knows the customs and lay of the land. At the very least you need a guide book. I can’t tell you how many times my trusty Lonely Planet travel book saved me from a scam, food poisoning, or much worse.
Isn’t it funny how most people understand the wisdom of having a travel guide, yet when it comes to navigating the complexities of truth and eternity scoff that they need guidance? “I can think for myself,” they say. “Religion is a crutch for weak people.” “Don’t look outside yourself. The truth is within you.” It sounds spiritual and empowering, but finding truth within you is a fool’s errand. Ignorance is dangerous. Turns out that neither you nor I have ever been to eternity. We don’t speak the language. We don’t know the dangers involved.
One of the oldest pieces of Christian art is the depiction of the good shepherd. He is a young man, bearing a sheep on his shoulders, carrying her through the wilderness to green pastures. The oldest depiction of this Good Shepherd is dated around 200 C.E. Where do we find these beautiful works of art? In the catacombs. In the places where Christians buried their dead.
They understood the wisdom of having a Good Shepherd, a travel guide who had died and “descended into the grave” and “on the third day he rose again,” as the Apostle’s Creed declares. When we face eternity and the specter of ultimate Truth, we need the resurrected Christ, who has been there, to carry us upon his shoulders, protect us, and guide us to the resurrection of eternal life.
Christ has gone into death and triumphed over it. That’s what gives him the unique authority to make the audacious claim that “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27-28 ESV).” Eternity is a trip that we all must make.
Have you made travel plans? Have you taken the time to listen to the voice of the only qualified Travel Guide?
Father Kurt is the Pastor of Light of Christ Anglican Church in Georgetown, TX