Lately a vision of the Christian life has been growing clearer in my mind, and as it grows, I find more application for it. The picture originates in John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress and relates to our focus as Christians.
Every day Christians encounter other people. We interact with them, share conversations with them, join them in play, work, eating and a multitude of other activities. We invest our lives in people all the time. Sometimes we invest large amounts of time in the lives of others. Sometimes we invest a small amount of time.
I often wonder how much of myself to give to other people. As I evaluate that question, I often feel guilty about not giving enough as opposed to feeling like I have ever given too much. The question is, how do we determine who to invest in and how much of ourselves to give and who to avoid altogether?
This is where Christian from Pilgrim’s Progress comes on the scene. When Christian was walking as he should and thus staying out of trouble, it was when he had a singular focus, namely the Celestial City. He chose his paths based on where they led as opposed to what they looked like. When he chose well, he chose the one that led to the Celestial City.
Along the way he encountered various people. Some were fellow pilgrims and others were not. Some served the Prince of the Celestial City; some served the wicked prince. As he encountered these people, he sought to discern of which character they were. If they were pilgrims, he would join them in their journey, and they would spend hours together comforting, strengthening and exhorting one another on their common goal of reaching the Celestial City.
On the other hand, when they were not pilgrims he sought first to set them on the right path and thus make them pilgrims. Failing that, he sought to be rid of them. This may seem harsh, but it is probably the wisest course for any believer. Christian sensed that if they would not follow the Prince of the King, then they posed a threat to him. He reasoned that they might just as well refocus his attention away from the Celestial City as he would focus theirs on it. That danger was too great to risk, and so, he separated from them. Now, to be sure, his efforts to convert them were concerted, and he reencountered some and made the attempts anew, but when walking rightly, he always chose to view every encounter with another person through a gaze focused on obtaining heaven.
My vision of the Christian life is this: We must have a singular focus, a heavenward focus, and in every encounter with another person, we must have as our goal to maintain that focus and turn their focus there also. Barring that, if the encounter threatens to distract us and put us in danger, we must reject it, we must flee and only return to it if God puts it in our way again having prepared us better to walk through it without being harmed.
This is an analogy and all sorts of exceptions may apply, but I believe that such a vision of the Christian life captures well how Christ taught us to live and minister. I pray that God would help us to have the wisdom to always walk with heaven in our gaze.