My local newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, broke the story reported by this headline yesterday. According to authorities, the men had arranged online to meet at hotels in our area intending to pay for sex.
Officials have not divulged the names of those arrested. The article reports that a high school teacher, a football coach, and an operations director of a large hospital network were among those arrested. However, the paper chose to headline its coverage by reporting that a “youth pastor” was arrested.
When I saw the headline, my first thought was that the paper focused on a church leader in a way that is unfair to my faith. Why not lead with the hospital administrator or someone else? I assumed that this will only fuel anti-Christian animosity in our secularized culture.
Then I had to reconsider my reaction. If a youth pastor has indeed been engaged in prostitution and sex trafficking, this is heinous beyond description. Is this a one-time crime? Has he been abusing youth in his church? Consider the pain and grief his youth group, their parents, their congregation, and their pastor must be feeling.
The ancient Greek philosopher Anaximander (610–546 BC) made the first map of the known world. He depicted the city of Miletus at its center. That’s because he was living in Miletus at the time.
Wherever you are, you are the center of the world, so far as you can see.
Therein lies my point today.
“Prince Harry’s Pagan Progress”
A Wall Street Journal op-ed on Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, describes his disclosures regarding his religion as “Prince Harry’s Pagan Progress.” It notes that Harry is not religious but he is “spiritual”: he tried therapy and self-medication with psychedelics; then, encouraged by his new girlfriend Meghan Markle, he took up yoga and visited a medium.
We can see Harry’s rejection of his childhood church tradition as a rejection of our faith. Or we can view him and the generation he represents as the op-ed writer does: “Solitary and syncretic, inward travelers with no direction home.” And we can do what we can to help them find the direction their souls are seeking.
Here’s the problem: most people who are spiritually lost don’t know—or believe—that they are truly lost. From their point of view, their map of the world is all the world there is.
It’s a simple fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. But this doesn’t make what we don’t know less relevant or even less dangerous for us.
“Zombie viruses” are being released by thawing permafrost in the Arctic—how real is the risk for public health? A “new wave of mobilization” by Russia may be on the way—will this heighten the risk of a new world war? Will artificial intelligence “steal your high paying job”? Will ongoing protests and new sanctions against Iran’s government lead to welcome regime change or spark even greater aggression against Israel and the West?
If you didn’t know about these stories before you read about them just now, that fact makes their potential threat no less real.
“Our heart is restless until it rests in you”
Christians are not immune from Anaximander’s self-centric map drawing.
Even though we sing, “I once was lost, but now I’m found / Was blind but now I see,” we are not yet home. There is much we do not know that we do not know about our Lord and his purpose for our lives.
However, like lost people who do not know they are lost, we can think that because we are “found,” we know all we need to know. The truth is, like a newborn baby, those who are “born again” (John 3:3) have only begun the journey before them.
And when we walk our journey well, our changed lives attract the lost people we know to the One we follow.
Paul testified: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). “Beholding” translates a Greek verb meaning to “contemplate” as an ongoing action. When we spend such time in the glorious presence of God, we are “transformed” (literally metamorphosized) into “the same image” as the One we worship as we are “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Others see his image reflected in us: his love in our compassion, his strength in our courage, his truth in our witness. And even if they do not know what they do not know about the One whose image we reflect, St. Augustine’s prayer is nonetheless their story: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
“The golden rule for your life and mine”
Oswald Chambers noted: “The golden rule for your life and mine is this concentrated keeping of the life open towards God. Let everything else—work, clothes, food, everything on earth—go by the board, saving that one thing. The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God.”
Will you allow the “rush of other things” to obscure your concentration on your Lord today? Or will you behold his glory and be transformed into his image?
You can draw your map around yourself, or you can draw it around Jesus—but you cannot do both. C. S. Lewis: “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else.”
Will you “look for Christ” today?