Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

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Disciple: Traveler or Tourist?

[Paul and Barnabas] preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:21-22)

Do you know the difference between a traveler and a tourist? In his book Your Church Is Too Safe Mark Buchanan notes that a traveler literally means “one who travails.” He labors, suffers, endures. A traveler immerses himself in a culture, learns the language and customs, lives with the locals, imitates the dress, eats what’s set before him. He takes risks, some enormous, and makes sacrifices, some extravagant. He has tight scrapes and narrow escapes. He is gone a long time. If he ever returns, he returns forever altered.

A tourist – not so. Tourist means, literally, “one who goes in circles.” He’s just taking an exotic detour home, He’s only passing through, sampling wares, acquiring souvenirs. He tastes more than eats what’s put before him. He retreats each night to what’s safe and familiar. He spectates and consumes. He returns to where he’s come from with an album of photos, a few mementos, a cheap hat. He’s happy to be back. He declares there’s no place like home.

As a disciple of Christ, are you a traveler or a tourist? The tourist samples the Christian life, but is not changed by it – always returning to what is familiar and comfortable. The “travailer” disciple knows he’s never been home yet. The “travailer” (in Buchanan’s words) “loses her life in order to find it. She steeps in the language and culture of Christ until his word and his world reshape hers, redefines hers, changes inside and out how she sees, and thinks, and dreams and finally, lives . . . ”

All that can be more than a bit uncomfortable of course – painful even – yet, remembering the words of Paul and Barnabas, it is absolutely necessary to discipleship.