“Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.” Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
When I started to work on the Discipleship Pathway at Westbrook, I looked for a metaphor that would do a decent job of describing our life in Christ. What does it look like to be a life long follower of Jesus Christ? After a lot of thinking and searching a landed on the idea of a pilgrim. In America, we tend to think of pilgrims as the people who started thanksgiving, but a pilgrim is a person who has set out on a journey for some sort of religious or spiritual reason. Some pilgrims travel to holy sites, other travel to discover themselves, or, like the pilgrims who came to america, they are traveling to find religious freedom.
For me, this has become one of the best metaphors for being a disciple of Jesus. There are a lot of good ways to describe what it’s like to be a Christian, but I think that this one does a fantastic job of capturing the lifelong journey of becoming more like Jesus.
Last fall, I had a chance to hear James Catford speak at the Apprentice Gathering at Friends University. He shared how many of us use the Bible simply as a way of getting people into the kingdom. It’s just a way to cross the border of salvation and that’s all that it does. The problem is the Bible shows us that there’s so much more to the Christian life than just getting salvation. Paul writes in Romans that we are being transformed and he writes to the Philippians that we are to work out our salvation. These passages point us to the journey of the Christian life.
Unfortunately, most of us choose the tourist route. Church is a attraction that we attend like Six Flags or a ball game. We invest little in following Jesus through out the week and rest secured in the fact that we crossed the border of salvation. We’re saved and we’re ok.
The problem is that following Jesus is meant to be a call to a deeper and better life. In our Pathway at Westbrook, I ask a question that I stole from a friend’s discipleship material. Did Jesus live the best life ever? If we really believe that, then we should look to him for more than just salvation. We ought to look at how he lived. We need to spend time making a pilgrimage with him to God so that we can live like he does. God wants to transform you into something better and it’s not by anything that we do. Going to church and checking off the Christian tasks won’t make you new. Connect with God and his people and allowing God the space to work in your life will change you. That happens by making the commitment to be a pilgrim. To follow Jesus wherever he takes you.
In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson uses a quote from Nietzsche to describe discipleship. “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is . . . that there should be along obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”
Any step towards Jesus is a good step and salvation is the best gift you could ever receive, but don’t stay three feet inside the border of God’s kingdom. I invite you to make the journey deeper into God’s country. Become a pilgrim seeking the Jesus life instead of a tourist simply looking to acquire salvation. Seek out the long obedience of discipleship. Jesus calls us to live, not just to save us.