A Lesson in Holiness: Father Emilio ‘Meelo’ Sandoz, S.J., Ph.D.

The story of Emilio Sandoz, the fictional Jesuit priest of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, has a lesson to teach us about holiness.   Now, I have yet to read Children of God, the sequel to The Sparrow; regardless, I believe the lesson still stands.   And if you have not yet read The Sparrow, and whether you like science-fiction or not, it is an excellent book which will both challenge you and move you. I highly recommend this book!

In a previous post, At the Edge of Science and Theology: ‘Cosmic Speculative Theology‘, I wrote about the possibility of intelligent life on other planets and what that might mean for Christianity; Mary Doria Russell does a great job of exploring this concept in The Sparrow. Father Sandoz, along with a few friends, find life on the planet Rakhat in the Alpha Centauri system of our galaxy; he and a group of Jesuit missionaries are able to go to Rakhat. The reader experiences the positive of what holiness truly is – love for God and love for neighbor. And while these are not human beings, the Runa and Jana’ata are another species of God’s intelligent creatures; the Jesuits show them the great love that they deserve.

But in the negative of what holiness is – a lack of sin – we are forced to face perhaps our most difficult challenge in practicing the positive of what holiness is – love. I don’t mean ‘negative’ in a way that has a bad connotation; I mean ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ simply in terms of what holiness is and is not. It is just the plus side of thinking – love – and the minus side of thinking – not sinning.

Nonetheless, events happen on Rakhat which haunt Emilio to the point where he can barely speak of them. These events are so horrendous that they cause Emilio to struggle with overwhelming and crippling amounts of both shame and guilt.

When he returns to Earth, he becomes an outcast because of the public’s perception of what happened on Rakhat.

I belong to a denomination called The Church of the Nazarene, part of the Wesleyan-Arminian branch of protestant Christianity; we have a strong focus on holiness.   We discuss theological doctrines like ‘Christian Perfection’ and ‘Entire Sanctification’; these are the ideas that, through God’s power in the Son and the Spirit, we are filled with God’s love so much that it is as if there is no more for sin!   It is a sound doctrine, but there is a very strong focus on avoiding sin or even any perception of sin.

The great temptation and danger is to only think of holiness in terms of what it is not – not sinning – rather than what it is – fully living in God’s love! And when we only think in terms of what it is not, then we miss what it is!   Inevitably, we must ask: what will we do when we are confronted with sin, whether it is in ourselves or in another’s life?

If we see sin, or even the perception of sin, in another’s life, then distance and separate ourselves from the person and offer nothing but sharp words, we miss the opportunity to show and live the positive of what holiness is – love. If we run from our own sin within us and don’t deal with it in the right way, criticizing ourselves and becoming our own worst enemy, it can weigh us down to the point that we are crippled with overwhelming guilt and shame.

Either way, we forget three of God’s most basic qualities in holiness: grace, forgiveness, and compassion.   We lose sight of Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

With news of the events on Rakhat, there was the idea among Earth’s people, and even many of Emilio’s colleagues in the Society of Jesus, that Emilio must have done something horrible and sinful. In the pursuit of holiness to the point of self-righteousness, there was little grace shown to Emilio. There was a strong initial tendency to focus on the negative of holiness – not sinning – rather than a demonstration of the positive of holiness – love.

We should always be willing to understand circumstances and do the right thing in the midst of a bad situation; this is being faithful to God. But it should not be to the point where we miss the opportunity to demonstrate love with grace, forgiveness, and compassion. To love, no matter what (and it really, really, REALLY means no matter what!), is our most basic obligation as Christians; it is what separates a true Christian from the rest of the world. In the pursuit of holiness, Christian perfection, and entire sanctification, a disposition towards love, to include grace, forgiveness, and compassion, is where we must lean to first.

Christ, our example in holiness, came to offer grace, forgiveness, and compassion to the demon-possessed man running wild, the woman at the well who had been already been with so many men, the woman accused of adultery and about to be stoned, the man who struggled to believe, and the tax collector who stole and cheated so many people out of money. Christ came to this world to offer grace, forgiveness, and compassion to even the criminals and the depraved hanging on the crosses next to him on Calvary.

Christ came to offer his love to the people that the fictional Emilio Sandoz represents – the misunderstood, the broken, and the ones struggling with crippling guilt and shame. And Christ came even to offer love to the people who would jump to conclusions and judgment about Emilio.

Christ came for you and for me. Christ came for the sinners.

Christ was beaten, suffered, and died.   He slowly and painfully suffocated to death while hanging on a cross in one of the world’s most barbaric forms of execution. He came so that through this atoning sacrifice, we, the sinners, might finally be reconciled to God.

Christ came so that you and I, absolutely broken people, yet still God’s loved and created beings, might have hope in true life and love of God through the risen, living Christ. Christ came so that you and I can learn and live the positive of what holiness really is – love.

Christ came so that you and I, in being a positive example of Christ’s holiness, can show God’s love to the depraved, the criminals, the adulterers, the demon-possessed, the thieves, the frauds, the unbelieving, and the liars.

Christ died for the ones who sinned against him, the ones who beat him, clamored for his crucifixion, sentenced him to death, nailed him to a cross, spit on him and mocked him as they watched him die so that – yes – even they could receive God’s love and be a part of Christ’s family.

As I mentioned before, perhaps our most difficult challenge in holiness is not necessarily practicing the negative – not sinning  – but practicing the positive – love.   Christ died for all; are we willing to show the type of love that Christ showed to all?

Father Emilio ‘Meelo’ Sandoz, S.J., Ph.D. offers us a challenging reminder to focus on what holiness is. And the lesson? With Christ as our example, and by the power of the Spirit of God working within us, the positive of what holiness is – love, to include grace, forgiveness, and compassion – is something that we must live out towards one another every day, no matter what, and no matter whom.

Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and Facebook

In case you haven’t noticed the people walking around with ash crosses on their foreheads, today is Ash Wednesday.   It is an important day in the Christian calendar which marks the beginning of the season of Lent.   It is a time when Christians fast from something (i.e. meat on Fridays for my Roman Catholic friends) in order to turn their attention to God, preparing their hearts for the holy days that come during the week of Easter.

Tonight I had the opportunity to attend the service at the West Chester United Methodist Church; the Methodists are Wesleyan cousins of my own denomination, the Church of the Nazarene.   It was a beautiful service; they have a great choir as well! But during the course of the service, several ideas were on my mind:

There is sorrow in repentance for the sins that we so often commit against God and one another.   There is a grieving that we have not done more in our lives to devote ourselves to God and his kingdom.   There is a yearning to prioritize God in our hearts, seek after his Spirit, and know Christ as our example.

And while there is a realization of our utter insignificance as we consider the perspective of God’s absolute power, especially with the common reading of Genesis 3:19 and the placing of ashes on our foreheads, there is the sudden and awe-inspiring awareness that comes with it – God still desires to know, love, and use each and every one of us in the expansion of his beautiful kingdom of holy love!   If that does not demonstrate the depth of God’s love for his creatures, I don’t know what does.   This understanding is made real when we take the elements of Christ’s body and blood through the bread and the wine (or grape juice for those of us in the Church of the Nazarene and other Protestant denominations); Christ died on a cross and rose again so that each one of us may be reconciled to God and become an incredibly useful part of his kingdom and the body of Christ on earth.

Last year during Lent I decided to give up cookies and other sugary sweets; I barely survived. The day after Easter I only ate cookies, cookies, and more cookies. This year I’ve decided to fast from the Western world’s most addictive social media site – Facebook.   All too often, we replace real relationships with virtual relationships. Christ tells us in several of the gospels what is most important – love God with everything that we are and love each other in the same way (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). In fasting from Facebook, I hope to be able to invest more time in real relationships with people rather than virtual relationships with people; it means actual phone calls, trying to get coffee with friends and talking to them face to face, and training carrier pigeons to bring small, handwritten, coded messages to various cities across the nation (it also means smoke signals!).

Tomorrow is also Valentine’s Day; pretty much every time this holiday has come around, I have thought to myself, “Ugh.”   Of course, I may also think this because I have always been single and have never quite managed to find that certain girl to love. But as we commemorate this holiday, perhaps each one of us, and whether we have someone to celebrate this day with or not, can remember the great love that God shows each and every one of us. We can dwell and meditate on the true standard-bearer of love, Jesus Christ. We can think about what it means to love one another, our friends, family, and even enemies, with Christ’s example of selfless love. Let us not dwell on the selfish love that culture and society too often try to overpower us with in greed. This might be more in tune with the season of Lent and what St. Valentine would have wanted when he was martyred in the year of our Lord, February 14, c. 270.

Let us repent during the weeks approaching Easter. Let us grieve, mourn, and be in sorrow for the sins we have committed toward God and toward one another. Let us yearn to be in communion with God’s Spirit. Let us desire, more than anything else, to prioritize our love for God as we fast from whatever it is we are fasting from. Let us seek to love God with everything that we are and love each other in the very same way. And let us rejoice that through Christ we are an integral part of God’s amazing kingdom of holy love!

Epiphany Sunday: The Journey

Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)

 1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;
4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.
8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Herod, the suspicious and cruel ruler of Israel who would do anything to keep his power, a power that was sometimes precarious considering the politics of the Roman Empire at the time, had just been visited by wise men from the East; they, in Herod’s eyes, had made some wild claim that a new king had just been born. Even when he had been installed as the ruler of this land under the advice of the Roman co-leaders Octavian and Mark Antony, and all the more the Roman Senate giving Herod the title “King of the Jews,” Herod’s power was still not solidified; Octavian and Mark Antony were on the verge of civil war in the Roman Empire. And more so, Herod was an Edomite; the Jewish people did not like him at all. The man was suspicious, sly, and cunning; he would have no problem eliminating any threats to his power.

Suddenly several wise men, some translations call them ‘magi,’ appeared on his doorstep in Jerusalem. Matthew is the only gospel which accounts for the wise men, and he only mentions ‘wise men from the East.’ Look carefully – he never specifies that there were three of them; in this passage we only have the mention of three different gifts. We can infer that with three gifts, there were three men who brought them. Regardless of the number of wise men, they arrived at Herod’s temple, catching the ruler off guard when they asked the man, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” One can imagine the thoughts that were going through Herod’s mind: “A child? A child as the ‘king of the Jews?’ That is my proclaimed title! Who is this child that threatens my power!” Herod must have taken a quick breath. His heart must have started racing. He became scared. The sly and cunning, yet ruthless and cruel, Edomite king devised a plan to maintain his power and eliminate this threat.

He called the chief priests and the scribes together, and learned that this ‘king’ was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. And Herod lied through his teeth and told the wise men, who were completely in the dark regarding Herod’s secret plans: “…to bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” But before that, he learned from the magi exactly when the star appeared.

In Matthew 2:16, the ruthless ruler, desperate to keep his power, and enraged that the wise men snuck away, disappearing without bringing any word to Herod, had all the children under two years of age in Bethlehem murdered. This was according to when he had learned the star had originally appeared to the wise men in the East. It was a horrendous act by someone terrified yet desperate to hold on to his greed for power.

But it had been up to two years since the star appeared! It was two years after Jesus Christ had been born in a manger that the wise men finally completed their journey to Jerusalem. And Bethlehem was not far at all from Jerusalem! This is quite often a fact that escapes us as we celebrate Christmas. I am going to come right out and say it because it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine – portrayals of the birth of Christ with wise men present are not biblically accurate. I apologize if I have shaken anyone with that statement. All of December I have driven past nativity scene after nativity scene and saw wise man after wise man after wise man. Half the time I was tempted to leave a note on these nativity scenes that read, “Not biblically accurate. Remove wise men please.” But in the Christmas spirit, I took a breath, kept driving, and did not leave any notes on any nativity scenes.

It should also be noted that Matthew tells us here that they were no longer in a manger at this time; Matthew specifically says “house” in verse 11. Jesus was born in a manger in a stable, possibly a cave, two years earlier. The shepherds were there; the wise men were not there. Two years later, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were still in Bethlehem and had managed to find a house, or at least a room in a house, for their small family. This time though, with the two year old child and his mother, the wise men, more than likely three of them, came at night, following a star, and gave homage and gifts to the true savior and the rightful king of the Jews.

But again, it had been up to two years! I want to stress that, because considering this, it must have been quite the journey for these wise men. They did not show up the next day after seeing the star in the sky. They did not show up weeks or a month or two later. They arrived in Jerusalem, on Herod’s doorstep, then on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ doorstep, up to two years after they had seen the sign that a king had been born. It must have been quite the trip! For a moment, I almost wonder what the journey was like and what kind of adventures these wise men must have had as they trekked from the East and to the house of this child, who they recognized as a king. I am reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Alas, I do not think the wise mens’ journey was quite like that.

We do not know exactly where the magi came from, or what religion these wise men considered themselves to be. All we know is that wise men, or magi, came from a distant land that was east of Israel. Some have suggested that they were Persians or Medes, coming from the area we know today as Iran. Some have suggested that they came from Babylon, in the area we know today as Iraq. Babylon was advanced in astronomy and would have been constantly studying the night sky. Some have suggested that they came from an area even further east or southeast of Persia. Some have suggested that one of the reasons these wise men even knew about this prophecy of a king being born in the first place was in fact because they were from the Babylonian part of the world.

Over 500 years earlier, the Israelites were exiled in Babylon; many Jewish prophets and scribes were in this part of the world. Still, many Jews stayed in the area around Babylon after the exile was over. A prophecy regarding the birth of a savior would have, more than likely, found its way into a Babylonian or Persian religion at the time; these empires had the habit of incorporating pieces of different religions into their own religion. And the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Medes; the Medes, conquered by the Persian Empire. And if they were from somewhere in Persia, modern day Iran, which is further east than Babylon, modern day Iraq, a journey that would have lasted two years would make sense.

Nonetheless, whether they were from Babylon or from Persia, these wise men recognized a sign from God. They traveled across deserts and mountains, and contended with who knows what else – possibly wild animals and thieves – all the while carrying their treasure chests. They showed true determination to respond to God and travel such a long distance over several years – all to pay homage to a two year old child for a single night in a house in the small town of Bethlehem. Not only is this instance more than likely the human savior’s very first ministry to the gentiles, but it shows the devotion that these wise men and magi had to worship a savior. They were not Jewish by any standard. They were not one of God’s “chosen people.” They were gentiles in every definition of the word.

And these gentiles recognized a sign from God, and came to worship the Christ, giving a two year old child gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I am seriously impressed that these gentiles made this extremely long, arduous journey to worship and show such reverence to a king of the Jewish people when he was so young. Even when Christ grew up and began his ministry, so many Jewish leaders, priests, and scribes did not want to recognize him as the Messiah.

The wise men made a journey, but God also made a journey. Today is Epiphany Sunday. On December 25, the Western Church (Protestants and Roman Catholics) celebrates the birth of Christ. The Eastern Church (Orthodox Churches) celebrates Christmas a couple weeks later near January 7; the difference in dates is because the Western Church uses the Julian calendar, while the Eastern Church uses the Gregorian calendar. Regardless, for the 12 days following December 25 (including Christmas day), the Church actually celebrates Christmas. The carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” is not just a song; it has real significance. Christmas actually ended yesterday! It did not end at 11:59 p.m. on December 25; it is not just a single day deal and we are done. And we all know that the season of Advent is when we prepare for and anticipate the birth of Christ in the four weeks preceding Christmas.

January 6, the day after the 12 days of Christmas are over, is Epiphany. It is a day when the Church recognizes the manifestation of God in human form, specifically to the gentiles, such as the wise men, and it is also a day when the Church recognizes the baptism of Jesus by the John the Baptist; again, it is a day when the manifestation of God in human form is made known!

We have talked about the wise men’s journey, but God made a journey as well. God sent his son, Jesus Christ (who is also God – the trinity is a difficult concept to grasp; nonetheless it is a sermon for another time. But I would be happy to have a conversation about it at any time if you have questions), as a means of redeeming a broken creation from the devastating effects of sin. Sin, disobedience to God, separates us from God and disconnects us from his Spirit. There is no way to regain a true relationship with God, a relationship defined by a connection of holy love, and a relationship which was originally intended to exist unbroken between God and humanity, except through Christ. Sin is a result of the broken world we live in. Ever since the first disobedience of Adam and Eve to God in the garden, the world has been broken. Sin, greed, and selfishness have proliferated out of control and there is no escape, except through the Christ, this same king that the wise men visited when he was such a young child. Only through recognizing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ can we be restored to God in a relationship of love. And then the love of God can infiltrate and begin to fix the brokenness of this world.

As I think about God’s journey to this broken world in the form of a human, I believe the opening verses of John’s gospel offers the best summary. He writes:

John 1:1-14 (NRSV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being
4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

God has sent his son, Jesus Christ, on a journey. It was a journey that began at the moment of creation, to make his son known to humanity, and a journey that was made complete with the manifestation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine.

And the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the true King, made this journey so that the world, not just the Jewish people, but gentiles all over the world as well, like these wise men who trekked so far from the East, would know God. It was so that all the world would know the love of God. It was so that all of humanity would learn how to love God, love people, and love creation. It was so that this world, a world broken by sin, would take another major step in being restored and being fixed. This would come only through Jesus Christ.

The Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the King – whose birth the Church has celebrated for the better part of the last two weeks, and who today we see that he has come for all people of the world to be restored to God – Jesus Christ came to rub mud in the blind man’s eyes and to bring sight to those who could not see (John 9:1-12). Jesus Christ made the journey so that the man paralyzed and lowered through a rooftop could be told to pick up his mat and walk (Mark 2:1-12). Jesus Christ made the journey for the bleeding woman who barely touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak on a crowded street so that she could finally know a true healing power (Matthew 9:18-26). Jesus Christ made the journey so that he could speak to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Jesus Christ made the journey so that he could show love to the outcast leper when he cleansed him from his disease (Luke 5:12-16). Jesus Christ made the journey to raise the dead Lazarus to life (John 11:1-44) and to bring a father’s dead daughter, his only child, back to life (Luke 8:40-56). Jesus Christ made the journey to cast out the demons called Legion from the demoniac who was running wild in the countryside (Mark 5:1-20).

And Jesus Christ made the journey for the wise men, who made their own journey from so far away in the East to worship and pay homage to the true King.

And Jesus Christ made the journey so that he might die on a cross as an atoning sacrifice for the world and rise again three days later, conquering death and sin for all people.

And Jesus Christ made the journey for you and me. Jesus Christ made the journey for your family members. He made the journey for your sons and daughters, your fathers and mothers, your brothers and sisters, your friends, and your enemies. Jesus Christ made the journey because he loves you, and because he wants to love you with everything that he is, and because he wants each of us to love him with everything that we are. Jesus Christ made the journey because he wants to be in a relationship with every single one of us. Jesus Christ, the one who was there at the creation of the world, the Word who became flesh, the light who cannot be overcome by darkness, wants to offer us healing from our ailments, our sicknesses, and our sins. Jesus Christ wants to heal our blind; Jesus Christ wants us to see when we cannot. Jesus Christ wants us to walk when we cannot. Jesus Christ wants to raise you and me out of death and into life. Jesus Christ wants to give us hope and love, and to show us what that means in each of our lives. Jesus Christ wants to love us. Allow him to love you.

Each one of us is on our own journey in life. We may be on a trek like the wise men, to worship the Savior and the King who has made himself known to us. We may be on that journey, but might be discouraged or falling away. We may even be headed in the complete opposite direction of Jesus Christ, whether it is on purpose or whether it is because we feel that there are circumstances way beyond our control. We might be trying to trudge up a mountain that seems way too steep, or we may have lost our step and be falling down that same mountain. We might be crossing over what seems like a never ending desert. I do not where each one of us is today; only you can know where you are. It is a matter between each one of us and God.

But regardless of where each one of us is on that journey, or whatever direction we are headed in on that trek, God wants to meet us wherever we are. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to meet the world where it is, broken in sin. Christ showed healing, love, and restoration to the blind and crippled where they were, and he desires to meet you where you are on your journey today. Christ ministered to the Jews and the gentiles; and here with the wise men we have the very first instance of God revealing himself to the outsiders – the gentiles.

Christ is the manifestation of God to all people, and he desires to meet us today, where we are on our journeys. Today is January 6 – Epiphany Sunday; allow Christ to be the manifestation of God and the manifestation of his unchanging and eternal love in your life.

the degradation of the term “adventure”

These days people are labeling anything and everything as an “adventure.” I know some people who would term a trip to the local grocery store, coffee shop, or city park as an “adventure.” Quite honestly, it’s pathetic. One might be able to get away with calling trips like these adventures only after the fact, and only if something unexplained, unexpected, and totally awe-inspiring occurred somewhere in the timeline of the trip.

In a fast-paced and over-stimulated world, where nearly every minute of our days are planned and there is not much room for error, we have lost much of any sense of adventure. Moreover, we make contingency plans for every possibility. Finally, with the rapid advancement and proliferation of technology, there seems to be less that can go wrong each day. Perhaps this is the reason we have an over-zealous thirst for labeling mundane everyday activities as adventurous.

I recently watched Stephen Auerbach’s documentary “Bicycle Dreams” about the 2005 Race Across America, one of the most difficult races in the world. One of the cyclists, Chris MacDonald, discusses how people describe a sense of something missing in their lives, yet they do not know what it is that is missing. An element of the unknown is a critical component of adventure. This may be one reason why people enter events like the Race Across America. Whether I realize it or not, it is probably one of the reasons I enter endurance paddling races such as the Missouri River 340. We are searching for the opportunity and courage to face an unknown that has been replaced by the comfort, stability, and safety of a posh American lifestyle.

As a result of our safe and stable lives, it is increasingly hard to find an endeavor that is definitively an adventure. As Scott and Shackleton planned their Antarctic expeditions over a century ago, there was certainly a greater possibility and fear of the unknown than there might be on similar expeditions today. While anyone going on any type of trip has an obligation to do their best to mitigate the risks, there are some endeavors where a great unknown is an unavoidable fact hovering above them, as in the case of a soldier deploying to a foreign country. When we have the courage to leave the safety and comfort of our personal worlds behind, it is at that point when we can truly begin to call something an adventure.

Perhaps the greatest adventure any of us can go on, in the truest sense of the word, is to completely devote our lives to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Old and New Testaments are filled with people who have ventured out from the safety of their personal worlds out of obedience to God. Through courage and faith in God, David not only conquered the fear of physical danger but also the fear of the unknown. In the New Testament, in addition to being shipwrecked and being bitten by a venomous snake, Paul faced persecution continuously for his belief in Christ. When we make a commitment to following God, the unexplained, unexpected, and totally awe-inspiring are guaranteed to happen.

There is certainly an element of the unknown when we devote our lives to Christ. We may not exactly know the direction of our lives all of the time. We may be sent as missionaries to foreign lands. We may even face the physical peril of persecution and poverty. But despite everything that may challenge our commitment to Christ, God does give at least one comfort in the adventure of a true Christian life: we can take refuge in the faith and knowledge of God. We have the knowledge that in the end, the unknown of this adventure will not be for nothing, but rather it will be for the hope, love, and salvation of Christ. Until then, it is our responsibility to live as an example of Christ to a world that is searching and struggling through their own elements of the unknown.