On an idyllic late spring afternoon, a friend and I cruised a curving country road in his convertible. These were the halcyon days of fuel prices, so the throaty throb of the big V-8 gulping gallons of gas dampened our enthusiasm not one iota. College classes and research papers left behind for the moment, we took the long way back from the store just for the joy of warm sun and fresh air. On my lap was a brown paper bag full of purchased condiments — ketchup, mayo, pickles, etc.— for a planned bonfire and wiener roast.
The eight-track tape spun out a catchy tune as we wound our way up the hill toward campus. Rounding a corner a bit too cavalierly we were suddenly confronted with a split-second decision. There, dead ahead in the middle of the road, was a large, lifeless skunk. It had obviously met its fate there in our lane, and we were loath to run over it again or suffer the odiferous imprint of such an encounter.
But that would have been better than the reaction of my cohort, who jerked the steering wheel to avoid the unfortunate beast and plowed straight into the ditch. As the dust settled, my friend jumped out to check his beloved vehicle while I surveyed the condition of the condiments, now a kaleidoscopic puddle of pickle-laced colors that somehow complemented the unmistakeable aroma of our nearby nemesis.
Roads are meant for traveling. Ditches are not.
Biblical teachings pave the road to our destination, but some of us have seasoned those clear words to our own taste. We've let strong opinions on music, jewelry, clothing or worship styles run us off the road into the ditch. In the name of righteousness, differences over ordination, the nature of Christ, spiritual formation and the like can become an in-house civil war — pitting member against member in a fruitless family feud.
It’s no wonder that some honest and tender souls take a sad look at the carnage and choose another route toward the kingdom.
This is not a new problem. Jesus confronted it two millennia ago, when religious folks openly criticized him for a long list of Sabbath infractions. The Bible says in Mark 3 that when Jesus encountered a man with a withered hand in the synagogue these self-appointed gatekeepers “watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.” When the Savior asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil?” they had no reply.
We're all better off out of the ditch, back on the road to Zion. There we can get a better look at Him, the author and finisher of our faith.
The next time a Pharisee in your path begins majoring in minors, ignore the skunk in the road. Keep your eyes on the destination, hold your nose and drive straight on through.