In a recent episode of “House Hunters International,” a young couple was searching for a home in Tórshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands. Geography is usually one of my strong points, but I had never heard of this city or country.
My question “Where in the world is Tórshavn?” naturally required an answer, and my immediate thought was “Google it.” I went to my tablet, opened Google Maps, entered “Tórshavn, Faroe Islands” and hit enter. And of course, there it was, “an archipelago of 18 volcanic islands between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean and part of the Kingdom of Denmark.”
We now have amazing earth navigation tools with GPS, Google Maps and the Internet. Google Maps is used so universally that we can forget it is relatively new. It was launched only 11 years ago in June 2005 and now contains more than 21 billion images of Earth. More than one billion people now use Google Maps each month.
Medical professionals are even using the software to treat patients with disabling topographical disorientation and cognitive mapping disorder. For these many thousands of disabled persons who cannot remember directions, Google Maps enables them to travel to stores, work and appointments without becoming totally lost and confused.
In less than 11 years, a piece of mapping software has revolutionized travel for many people and introduced new words into our language. However, this technological success is minor when compared with the power of the Bible in changing lives for almost 2,000 years.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, or almost a third of all 6.9 billion people on Earth. A recent survey by the American Bible Society concluded that around 5 billion copies of the Bible have been printed in more than 350 languages. Through Bible reading, worship, Christian education, fellowship groups, media and many other activities, believers build a life map which gives daily help in directing their work, marriages, families, problems, spiritual growth and lifestyle.
In John 14, Jesus gave us a clear statement about who he was and how he can help us develop a life map for navigating when we are lost in spiritual darkness and detours. He simply said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6).
First, Jesus said “I am the way.” The way to what? To God. Keith Krell has called this “the scandal of Christianity.” A 2008 poll of 35,000 Americans showed that 57 percent of church attenders said they believed many religions can lead to eternal life. Jesus doesn’t say, “I am a way and a truth and a life.” He is saying he’s the only way, that you can’t get there any other way because they all fall short.
Second, Jesus said “I am the truth.” The truth about what? Not scientific facts such as sodium plus chloride equals salt. Jesus said he is the truth of God laws. If I want to know what is true about any of God’s laws, look at Jesus. Always ask the questions what would Jesus think, do and say.
Third, Jesus said “I am the life.” What life? Now and eternity. He was claiming to be the source of all life. In John 14:19, he gave the promise that “because I live, you also will live.” The life he was going to provide for them was not political or social but deliverance from a life of bondage to sin and death to a life of freedom in eternity.
Jesus gave his disciples a three-part map for their future life’s journey. He must become their only way to travel. He must become their only truth to believe. He must become their only life to live.
I use Google Maps each week for different purposes. The software has helped me many times to navigate long trips, make correct turns at intersections, avoid road hazards, find alternate routes in bad weather and safely return home after dark.
However, Google Maps cannot ever give me spiritual directions or wholeness.
There are many individuals and groups today who deny the value of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. The overwhelming evidence after almost 2,000 years is that we can depend on him to help us live with hope and successfully navigate our personal and spiritual lives. The choice is ours to deny what Jesus said about himself or to seek the way, the truth and the life that are promised through him.
The Rev. Mike Hopper is pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.