When was the last time you examined the elements of your faith journey? You know, those ups and downs, that inspirational moment when an event or a sermon, or some Bible study made a real difference. Maybe it was a crisis in your life or the life of your family. Perhaps the change happened in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Whatever that was, how did that change make a difference in your life? What followed that part of your faith journey? Did you find yourself more open to other’s needs? Did you seek to love your neighbor? Did you ever consider that your personal faith journey is reflected in four specific events, or roads, documented in the New Testament?
Recently, I attended a chapel service where the subject of the homily focused on roads Christians travel in our faith journeys. As I listened I could count four roads of significance:
- Damascus Road — Paul’s encounter with Christ led to his conversion.
- Jericho Road — The parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told when a lawyer asked the questions “what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ and “who is my neighbor”?
- The Road to Calvary.
- The Road to Emmaus.
The speaker’s homily got me thinking about the challenges that we encounter as we try to live our lives as Christians. I thought about how these four roads illustrate specific stages in our walk, how they must converge at times, and how we adapt.
Damascus Road — This is the story of the Pharisee Saul, on his way to wreak havoc on the followers of Christ. The story is a familiar one of Saul, as he approached Damascus, is confronted by Christ and was converted, becoming very strong in the Christian faith and where he became Paul, an apostle and minister to the Gentiles.
It truly is a dramatic story, but if we look at the heart of what happened to Saul we might catch a glimpse of ourselves. Not the violent Saul, but the unbelieving Saul who makes the change to the believing Paul. This “born again” change to a personal faith, a personal belief in Christ, is a transition that every Christian goes through, each one of us. Think about that.
Don’t think so? Okay, let me give you a personal example. I was born into a Christian home. My father was a Congregational pastor and his faith was reflected in how our family embraced the church. I recall the Sunday School classes, starting with the “Cradle Roll” that bore my name, all the way to our high school Bible study group. Now, sometime in my growing up years my faith moved from following my parents lead to a personal relationship with Christ. For me it was seamless. No Damascus Road experience, no sudden transformation. Just a moment when I came to realized that my faith was mine! It was personal, not my parents, but mine! It is what I believed. For me, that transition was a born again moment!
How about your faith transition. Can you recall that point where your faith became personal, it became real, it became Your faith?
Jericho Road — Luke 10. The familiar story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is asked by an expert in the Mosaic Law “what should I do to inherit eternal life?” During the conversation another question is raised: “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is found in the parable of a man, set upon by robbers, left for dead alongside the road. A priest and a Levite, in turn, saw the man and passed by on the other side.
Enter the Samaritan, who shows not only compassion but binds up the wounds of the man, places him on his donkey and took him to an inn where he paid the innkeeper to take care of him. Jesus, then, asks us “which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers.” “The one that showed him mercy.” And Jesus tells us to “go and do likewise.”
Now, the road to Damascus and the road to Jericho converge and become the Road to Calvary. As Christians we must take both roads at the same time. We take with us the faith that burns in our heart that we found on that road to Damascus. And heeding Christ’s words to “go and do likewise” we tread that road that leads, not just to Jericho, but to Calvary as well. The lesson for us is that when we follow Christ we will be confronted by those times when we are taken out of our comfort zone, when our focus shifts to others, and we are called upon to reach out and “do likewise”. Where being a follower of Christ carries a risk!
Road to Emmaus — Luke 24. The story is also a familiar one. Following the crucifixion of Christ, two disciples are traveling to the town of Emmaus when they encounter a man later revealed to be Christ. During their conversation, Christ reminds them of the prophets and what is said about a Messiah. Then, at table, he is revealed to be Christ when he broke the bread and blessed it, and gave it to them. Christ then vanishes from their midst, and they realize who that was, and “didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us”.
In the poem “The Hound of Heaven”, by 19th Century poet Francis Thompson, the hound is symbolic of God’s grace, ever pursuing the fleeing soul who seeks to hide itself until exhausted, he turns to Him alone and receives the Grace of God. As we travel these four roads we arrive at our destination, a completeness in Christ. Christ, the Hound of Heaven, is waiting to be invited in.
So, where are you on these roads? Have you accepted Christ? Has He changed you? Are you just beginning to understand who your neighbors are and the meaning of “go and do likewise”? Are your eyes, once blind, now beginning to see? Or are you like so many of us who, in exhaustion, having tried everything else, now turn to God, and, to our surprise, we receive His grace.
Many years ago, riding in the back of an ambulance, my anxieties high almost to panic, not knowing what to do or how all this was going to be resolved. In my desperation, I turned to God, the Hound of Heaven, not to bargain, but to surrender, seeking a miracle, a healing. The healing would come later, but His grace and His presence were immediate. May God bless you on your journey.
For What It’s Worth.