July 11, 2020

Who Are You Walking (or Zooming) With?

By Josh Dean

My wife and I had the opportunity to take a pretty awesome honeymoon — a family member blessed us with a trip to Ireland. When we arrived, we rented a tiny European car and set out on an adventure navigating a new country on the wrong side of the road. Our cellphones didn’t work, so we planned in advance to find our way around by printing directions off of MapQuest (Gen Y readers, it’s a website that gave you directions before iPhones). This plan worked…occasionally. We obviously made it back to America, and we’re still married. But there were multiple times when the directions weren’t accurate, and we had to improvise.

On one such occasion, we were on a long stretch of highway when the empty gas light came on. Instinctively we turned to Siri to fix our problems and were met with eerie silence. Wedded bliss started melting into tension — this was a problem, so obviously it had to be someone’s fault! Just as we were about to be stranded, an exit appeared, and we saw a massive gas station covered in American flags. Apparently, President Barack Obama’s third great grandfather was from this town, and this gas station decided to celebrate the USA because of it. We pulled in, both proud to be Americans and relieved that we survived.

There’s a reason we often compare life to a journey. Sometimes life really does feel like an epic adventure. We get to move to new places, try new things, begin new relationships. Journeys come with one downside though — you can get lost! There are times when the destination isn’t clear, and our next step feels like a shot in the dark.

If you’re like me, you may feel this way about 2020. In a matter of days, so many realities we took for granted suddenly changed. With information shifting almost daily, it can feel like we’re walking in the dark. Will we get sick? Will we be furloughed? How long will our lives be so different?

Most of us have dealt with uncertainty before. Just as there’s no manual about living through a pandemic, there’s no manual to tell you where to go to college, who to marry, how to be a parent, or how to cope when your loved one gets a terrible diagnosis. Surviving our honeymoon taught us that when the next step is uncertain, learning to rely on who you are traveling with can be even more important than knowing where you are going.

In Ephesians 5:1-14, the Apostle Paul describes the Christian life as a “walk.” The word in the original language actually hints at life being like a journey. The idea is that we are walking toward a destination. The way we live is going to take us somewhere: today’s choices become tomorrow’s destinations.

Paul tells us that the key to walking well is to be “imitators” or “followers of God.” We’ll get to our destination not by having a perfectly clear map, but by following Jesus closely and imitating Him. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul used the same word to make a really bold request; he told the Corinthians to “be imitators of me, even as I imitate Christ.” This isn’t the only instance in the New Testament where we’re told to imitate other believers (1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2:14, Hebrews 6:12). You may be thinking, “Wait, aren’t we only supposed to follow Jesus?” The answer is yes, but what Paul is showing us is that we can’t follow Jesus successfully without surrounding ourselves with fellow-imitators and learning from their example.

When our next step isn’t clear, we need the right traveling companions more than ever. Paul goes on to discuss the results of walking with the wrong crowd in Ephesians 5. We’re told not to be “partakers” with those who are taking steps away from Christ. We’re not told to shun these people, but to let the light of Christ in our lives influence them rather than allowing them to influence us. Paul recognized that none of us, even those of us who are socially distanced, live in a social vacuum. We’re all susceptible to influence. The question is who will we invite to have a place of influence in our lives?

That’s why it’s so important, Grace family, that we make an effort to connect with each other. I’ve been a part of several small groups, but I never imagined that I’d start one online. Even though we moved to Orlando recently, we realized we couldn’t wait for Covid-19 to pass before building community with other believers. So, we started a Grace Community online with a handful of people. We’ve never all been in the same room and some of us have never even met in person, but over the past several months we’ve been able to support each other and pray for each other. This community has made our quarantine so much better, and it’s going to be awesome when we’re finally together!

If you’re not already involved in a Grace Community, I’d like to challenge you to take advantage of an opportunity to get connected to the Grace family this summer. We’re offering virtual classes starting in July for men, women, and married couples (need a little Covid marriage tune-up anyone?) along with a co-ed option on how to understand the Bible. They’re all online so you don’t have to figure out childcare or dinner out or even what you’re wearing from the waist down! Seriously, if you’ve never tried a Grace Community, this is the perfect chance to connect and make a few friends. We’d love to have you join us! You can find out more and sign up HERE.

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