An Application of Bunyan – The Easy Way, or the Right Way?

December 20, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

“When will you ever learn?”  There is a reason this question is so familiar.  When it comes to walking the Pilgrim Way we do not learn easily nor quickly.  We must often repeat the same lesson over and over again.  This was true of Christian and Hopeful just as it is of us.

The path they were to follow was sometimes an easy and pleasant one.  There were lush, green meadows and refreshing streams running alongside.  In other places, the path would be rocky and steep. There would be obstacles of many kinds, tempting pilgrims to give up the journey, or at least to seek an easier way.

By now one would think Christian and Hopeful had learned the perils of turning from the path.  But we find ourselves asking of them, as we so often ask ourselves, “When will you ever learn?”.

Christian and Hopeful had come into just such a difficult portion of the way, and they were much discouraged.  The path was rough, their feet were sore, and they longed for the pleasant places through which they had previously passed.

Then they saw it.  By-Path Meadow.  Indeed, it looked like an easier and far more pleasant way.  Furthermore, it seemed to run parallel with the path upon which they were presently trudging.  Surely, Christian reasoned, it would do no harm to take the easier path for a while, and then, when they had passed by the difficult stretch, return to the way which had been set for them.

Hopeful hesitated, but Christian persuaded him, and so they crossed over.  Not only did they find this new way to be an easy and pleasant path, but they were all the more encouraged when they met a man named Vain-confidence.  Asking the man where the path led, they received the answer they hoped to hear: “To the Celestial gate”.

Their joy lasted only a moment, for it grew dark. It grew so dark, in fact, that they lost sight of their new companion. Not seeing him, however, did not mean that they could not hear him.  They did hear him.  They heard him fall into a pit.  It was a pit purposely placed in the path in order to catch over-confident fools such as Vain-confidence.

There the pilgrims stood, knowing not what to do nor where to go, as they listened to the groanings of their former acquaintance, laying broken at the bottom of the shaft.  To add to their sudden miseries, it now began to rain.  Thunder and lightening came upon them with great intensity, water began to rise, and in their hearts the question came: “When will we ever learn?”.

One might have expected the fellowship between Christian and Hopeful to have been broken as a result of their situation.  After all, Hopeful had questioned Christian’s decision, desiring to continue on their original path, rough though it had been.  One might not have been surprised to hear an “I told you so”, pass between them.  And yet, there was no recrimination.  There was only grace.

Christian, knowing that he had been the driving force behind this poor decision, repented, and sought the forgiveness of his companion, which Hopeful readily extended.  In fact, so strong was their bond that the only quarrel which rose between them concerned who would be the first to return back the way they had come, each one desiring to assume that risk for the safety of the other.   

That is true fellowship, is it not?  That is Christian brotherhood.  That is Philippians 2 in action. 

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil. 2:3-8).

When will we ever learn?  The way of discipleship was never supposed to be easy.  The hardship is an intentional part of the journey.  And as we travel the path of discipleship, we do not travel alone.  We walk with other pilgrims. We struggle with other pilgrims.  We endure with other pilgrims. We fail them. And we forgive them.  And we risk ourselves for them, and they for us.  We do so because the Master has determined that in this way, together, we will arrive at our destination.

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