Bible Insight: Different Pathways for Each of Us
IF A MAN DOES NOT KEEP PACE WITH HIS COMPANIONS,
PERHAPS IT IS BECAUSE HE HEARS A DIFFERENT DRUMMER.
LET HIM STEP TO THE MUSIC HE HEARS,
HOWEVER MEASURED OR FAR AWAY.
– HENRY DAVID THOREAU
“JESUS SAID [TO PETER], ‘…WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER YOU DRESSED YOURSELF AND WENT WHERE YOU WANTED; BUT WHEN YOU ARE OLD YOU WILL STRETCH OUT YOUR HANDS, AND SOMEONE ELSE WILL DRESS YOU AND LEAD YOU WHERE YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO.’ JESUS SAID THIS TO INDICATE THE KIND OF DEATH BY WHICH PETER WOULD GLORIFY GOD…
“PETER TURNED AND SAW THAT THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED WAS FOLLOWING THEM… WHEN PETER SAW HIM, HE ASKED, ‘LORD, WHAT ABOUT HIM?’
JESUS ANSWERED, ‘IF I WANT HIM TO REMAIN ALIVE UNTIL I RETURN, WHAT IS THAT TO YOU? YOU MUST FOLLOW ME.’” (JOHN 21:18-22 NIV)
I’ve thought a lot about these verse since hearing a sermon at church on the 21st chapter of John’s Gospel.
Jesus has many different pathways for his followers to travel. He had one for Peter. He had a different one for John. The path Jesus had for John was for Peter, well, none of his business. His business would be his own pathway, which would be arduous enough. If we focus as we should on the challenges and opportunities of our own pathway, we won’t have time or desire to meddle in and judge the pathways of others.
Many different factors will affect the path we trod. Our background and family upbringing. A tragedy, a serious illness or untimely death may fully refocus us. Our personalities—are we more introvert or extrovert?
Some of us grew up in the Christian faith and our “conversion” is really a personal confirmation of what we have accepted all along. Others may have a dramatic conversion that initiates a significant redirecting of life. Don’t impose your “born again experience” on others.
Some of us progress spiritually through the regular, weekly worship and instruction of the church, including its sacramental life. While this option should never be forsaken (I’m adamant about that!), others of us may have a more personally nurtured journey or progress through more informal ways. Today’s trend seems to be away from big-church stuff to smaller venues. Some (me) prefer robust worship; others like the contemplative. Can’t the Spirit of God fill both? Isn’t either subject to error or abuse?
My mother’s deep walk with God came from (or led to—I’m not sure which) listening to radio preachers and old gospel music that would now drive me nuts. She was subjective and somewhat mystical in her faith; I was academic and rationalist in mine. Ne’er the twain shall meet—at least not in our family—and I could not find my pathway under her tutelage. She rose with the rooster to have her “daily quiet time” while I’ve taken solace that even on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit waited till 9:00 a.m.
Don’t impose your notion of “being discipled” on someone else. Maybe that person gets his “being discipled” primarily from corporate worship, hearing the Word and receiving the Eucharist and isn’t into the “one on one” track.
Spiritual gifts? Your spiritual gift probably isn’t mine, and the gift(s) we have will mold our convictions on what ministry priorities ought to be. We’ll have healthy debates over the church budget. I think that if the church nurtures a wide variety of spiritual gifts and encourages their ministry, its priorities will balance out to what they ought to be.
What’s there to say about all this? Don’t judge or seek to supervise your brother and sister as they walk their own pilgrim pathways. “What is that to you? You follow me” – Jesus.