Footsteps, Corea Maine
This is the time of year in Maine when one is more likely to see footprints in the snow rather than in the sand. However, any footprint is a reminder of Henry W. Longfellow’s words: “We can make our lives sublime/ And, departing, leave behind us/Footprints on the sands of time.” (from A Psalm of Life)
Men and women of determined mind have impacted culture for good or for evil ever since Adam and Eve. Although we may have outgrown our childhood superheroes, we continue to be inspired by the strong character, generous hearts, and courageous living of those who work for personal and common good. We value determination, endurance, and conviction especially when they involve sacrifice or an effort to rally others to achieve good and even great things.
However, history has also proven that our loyalties and affections may be naively captivated by evil scoundrels, by antiheroes of the worse kind, who can deceive and manipulate us into the most depraved depths of inhumanity and who leave terrible, indelible marks on psyches and societies. Careful discernment about what we believe or whom we esteem and choose to follow is crucial to personal and national wellbeing. We are always in danger of being misled by cultural delusions that accompany prestige, power, success or celebrity. And we can easily center our world views around the many respected voices of humanistic and religious ideologies.
Of all the distinctive, influential, and crucial historical voices the most pivotal is that of Jesus Christ, a poor, humble, itinerant Jewish Rabbi whose teachings and powers were initially ignored or denied or disparaged by the religious elite. Few recommended or promoted him during his life time; those who did were maligned or persecuted. He received no accolades, no royal recognition, no Nobel Peace prizes; Incredibly his miracles, including raising the dead, were dismissed. So, what validates his importance?
Jesus’ name and teachings continue to turn political, religious and spiritual worlds upside down. But more importantly, after several thousand years, Jesus’ words still impact individuals. The Apostle John told his readers “ whoever keeps (Christ’s) word, in him truly the love of God is perfected…and (you) ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:5-6) The Apostle Peter took that idea to a very practical and uncomfortable level:“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (1Peter 2:21-25) The Roman church heard the good news that “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Walking through the Gospels with Jesus is transformative as we listen to his thoughts on organized religion and as he addresses large crowds, teaches small groups, and mentors individuals. We become an audience to discussions with skeptics and seekers and to interviews with humble sinners and arrogant religious intellectuals. We witness healing of bodies and the changed souls of men and women at all levels of society. Peter knew the spiritual healing Christ gives and testified that “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (1Peter 2:24)
An old hymn, Footsteps of Jesus, gives us a clue: “Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling, /’Come, follow Me!’/ And we see where Thy footprints falling/ lead us to Thee.” (M. Slade 1871) Christ brings us to Truth. His words will never “pass away” even if heaven and earth do! (Matthew 25:35) He leads us out of our personal muck onto solid ground. He takes the hopeless, the helpless, and the faithless on an unending journey to love, forgiveness, redemption, and hope, and to the promise of a glorious day of life forever. That is why Jesus is still essential!