Jesus said, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” — John 14:3-6
Have you ever been boating offshore when the weather closed in and you had to get to the safety of the Destin Pass, but couldn’t see the shoreline through the weather? I have. Have you ever had your GPS go out on you? I have. The good news is that both of these events did not occur at the same time for me. If they had, I would have had to turn to that simple, but critical, piece of boating equipment — the compass. No boater in his right mind would venture offshore without one for the simple reasons I have just noted.
We have compasses to point out magnetic north so that we can be confident of our heading no matter what direction our journey is carrying us. But the boater needs to be careful, because there are all sorts of things that can deflect a needle from pointing to north; like that GPS or depth machine if placed too close to the compass, or a metal coffee mug, or a tool. The list of bad possibilities is endless but the result is always the same. The needle will swing in the direction of the object and your compass will no longer point out the direction of magnetic north. If you rely on it you can find yourself very lost indeed.
Our spiritual life is rather like that compass. This world is filled with all manner of storms which envelop us with such force that we lose sight of our Lord for a while. That is not a big problem as long as we have a moral compass which is informed by Scripture, worship and prayer. It will enable us to stay on course while we weather the storm until things calm down and the visibility clears.
But what if we have been influenced by letting some of the offerings of the world, the flesh and the devil get close enough to deflect the needle of our moral compass away from pointing to Jesus? Then just like a boater lost in a storm, we will find ourselves heading in a wrong direction and not even realizing that we are in danger! Mariners call the force that pulls a compass needle off magnetic north deviation. Interesting.
Can anyone doubt that we live in a culture where so many have lost their moral bearings that folks influenced by such deviation seem normal? But our heavenly Father created us and knows what moral headings lead us to blessings and which ones lead only to pain and separation. He loves us so much that He sent his only Son, Jesus, to walk among us as one of us. It was that same Son who declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) And that is why early Christians called themselves followers of “the Way.”
If the joy of my life is to journey in the direction of Jesus, then the last thing I need is to deviate from that course. That means I need to be vigilant in maintaining my moral compass. Testing everything on the firm foundation of the Bible (Scripture), I can be assisted by the great lessons the Church has learned over the generations (Tradition), and by asking whether or not some thought, word or deed might be reasonable to God (Reason).
If the thought, word or deed conforms to all three, no worries. If it aligns with Scripture and one of the others, then there is probably little to be concerned about. If, however, it doesn’t stand up to the test of Scripture for any reason, then my best option is to toss it far away from me as fast as I can. The Lord wants his followers to have good moral compasses, not just so we don’t get lost, but also because we can point others in the right direction— toward the Lord who loves us all.
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.