The Pilgrim and The Monk: Environmentalism

Pilgrim: Monk, how should Christ’s disciples respond to environmentalism?

Monk: That depends. What do you believe environmentalism to be?

Pilgrim: It’s about saving the planet.

Monk: Is that what environmentalists aim to do?

Pilgrim: Do you doubt that?

Monk: Before I answer that, perhaps I should respond to the spirit of your question.

Pilgrim: You mean, should Christians be environmentalists?

Monk: As always, we should allow the Scriptures to inform us.

Pilgrim: Fair enough.

Monk: First, we must acknowledge that God is Creator of the universe, including the earth.

Pilgrim: What about evolutionary theories and the Big Bang? It seems like a lot of Christians are now trying to reconcile them with the Genesis creation.

Monk: Pilgrim, I have no reason to doubt the creation in Genesis. If I trust God, then I trust him to speak truthfully.

Pilgrim: What about scientists who present evidence to support evolution?

Monk: That is an excellent question for another time. At the moment we trust God’s explanation. He is either trustworthy or he is not.

Pilgrim: Fair enough.

Monk: At the end of creation, God gives dominion of earth to Adam and Eve.

Pilgrim: If that’s true, his ancestors have done a lousy job.

Monk: There is no doubt. But it also shows the unique relationship humanity has with creation. One day we will give an accounting of how we have cared for our Lord’s creation. We have a responsibility to be good stewards.

Pilgrim: See? We have a lot in common with environmentalists.

Monk: There is some overlap, but it is small.

Pilgrim: How can you say that? We all want to save the earth.

Monk: Again, if our Lord can be trusted, the ability to save the world is out of our hands.

Pilgrim: You confuse me, Monk.

Monk: We are stewards of creation, but ownership remains in God’s hands. We are told that at some time he will make a new heaven and earth. Ultimately, there is no saving this planet.

Pilgrim: Until then we still have to take care of the earth.

Monk: That is true. We do that because we are obedient to our Lord’s command.

Pilgrim: That seems like a semantic difference to me.

Monk: Words flow from the heart, Pilgrim. The difference between the two is a matter of obedience. We care for creation because we serve God. Environmentalists work to save the planet because that is what they worship. I prefer to worship the Creator over the creation.

Pilgrim: You can’t paint everyone with the same brush, Monk. There are a lot of reasons to be environmentally responsible.

Monk: You are correct, Pilgrim, but in all things, serving the Lord is the highest priority.

Pilgrim: Monk, you never cease to amaze me.

Monk: I will take that as a complement, Pilgrim.

Pilgrim: As well you should.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Second-Class Citizens

Pilgrim: Monk, have you heard? The government has introduced vaccine passports.

Monk: How unfortunate.

Pilgrim: Why do you say that? They’ll keep people safe.

Monk: Define ‘safe’.

Pilgrim: This will keep people from getting covid.

Monk: How will it do that exactly?

Pilgrim: It keeps unvaccinated people away from those who are fully vaccinated.

Monk: It also separates families. It divides society into two classes, the clean and the unclean.

Pilgrim: I see it more like the selfish and the unselfish. People who reject the vaccine put others at risk.

Monk: Is that their motivation? Do you believe the unvaccinated plot in their hearts the harm their family and friends?

Pilgrim: Maybe not, but I think they just don’t think things through.

Monk: You believe it is ignorance that fuels their decision.

Pilgrim: Exactly.

Monk: Then, I agree with you.

Pilgrim: I’m glad you see it my way.

Monk: Perhaps. I believe their reluctance is based on ignorance surrounding the vaccine itself. We do not know what side effects my be felt on the young who take it.

Pilgrim: That’s ridiculous, Monk. We know the vaccines are safe.

Monk: Do we really? Has not our government removed one of the vaccines from use because possible dangerous side effects?

Pilgrim: Okay, that’s true.

Monk: The other vaccines in use were developed using innovative and unproven technology.

Pilgrim: That’s true. It’s amazing the scientific breakthroughs they’re making these days.

Monk: It also means we do not know the long-term effects of that technology.

Pilgrim: Pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t rush something to market that isn’t safe.

Monk: Have you ever heard of thalidomide? It was brought to market before they knew it caused severe birth defects. Tens of thousands of children suffered from its effects.

Pilgrim: There’s no evidence to suggest these vaccines do the something like that.

Monk: There is no evidence at all. That is precisely the point. They have not been properly studied. I forgive people who do not want to serve as experiments for pharmaceutical companies and governments.

Pilgrim: What about the safety of those at risk of the virus?

Monk: The main responsibility rests with the individual.

Pilgrim: That seems selfish to me.

Monk: The idea that an individual is responsible for the lives of seven and a half billion people is absurd.

Pilgrim: There has to be a balance.

Monk: I agree. The burden should not rest on the individual. Pharmaceutical companies and governments of the world should accept responsibility for their due diligence in vetting the vaccines, including bearing the responsibility for the negative effects they cause.

Pilgrim: Monk, that will never happen.

Monk: In that case, I will support an individual’s right to choose what is put in their body.

Pilgrim: That makes you a second-class citizen, too.

Monk: Only on this planet. In the Kingdom of God, there are no second-class citizens.

Pilgrim: Once again, you help me see things from a different perspective.

Monk: I aim to serve.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Suffering and Communion

Pilgrim: Monk, why do good people suffer? Why do they get sick and God doesn’t heal them? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Monk: These are powerful questions, Pilgrim. They are mysteries too vast for my comprehension.

Pilgrim: You must have spent time thinking about them.

Monk: Many hours, but I have not even begun to understand it.

Pilgrim: Is that the only conclusion you came up with? You don’t understand?

Monk: I am afraid most of my observations are devoid of the emotions that permeate suffering. They would appeal callous and unfeeling.

Pilgrim: I would still like to hear them.

Monk: At your insistence, I shall. The first thing I can say about suffering is that it is universal. It discriminates against one. Rich, poor, wicked or good, it is something we all endure.

Pilgrim: You must admit that the rich suffer less than the poor. And what about race? Some races experience privileges over others.

Monk: What does disease care about wealth? The rich only have more to lose in death. And oppression is not bound by race. Oppression is merely power used by the strong to abuse the weak. Beware when people dehumanize others. That is only a justification to cause suffering to others. No Pilgrim, all people suffer. The manner of suffering may change, but it is universal.

Pilgrim: It never occurred to me that everyone suffers.

Monk: Even our Lord.

Pilgrim: Wait, what? You need to explain that to me.

Monk: Consider that the things we often place as highest value are not of highest worth. Suffering can help us reorder our priorities.

Pilgrim: That’s hardly a comfort, is it?

Monk: When we are in the midst of suffering, comfort is elusive.

Pilgrim: That’s true.

Monk: Also, consider the good that came from our Lord’s suffering.

Pilgrim: What are you talking about?

Monk: The cross. He suffered because of the suffering we caused him through our sin. He suffered in order to reconcile with us.

Pilgrim: It’s strange to think that God suffered. But if he knows what suffering was like, why would he allow us to go through it?

Monk: Christ never promised we would be free from suffering in this fallen world. He did promise we would not endure our suffering alone.

Pilgrim: How does that help?

Monk: Of all the forms of suffering ever experienced, I believe loneliness creates the most harm. Christ himself felt that when sin separated him from the Father on the cross.

Pilgrim: What makes loneliness so horrible?

Monk: The broken communion. We were made to walk with God and we were made to be in relationship with each other. When we are alone it is like an unbearable weight that crushes our soul.

Pilgrim: You make it sound poetic.

Monk: That is only because I lack the words to fully describe it.

Pilgrim: Do you ever think you’ll ever understand suffering?

Monk: No. Not on this side of eternity.

Pilgrim: Until then, we’ll just have to persevere under it together.

Monk: That is my hope, Pilgrim.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Know and Fully Known

Pilgrim: Do you ever get lonely living an ascetic life?

Monk: There are more lonely people in the city where you live than the wilderness I inhabit.

Pilgrim: There are a lot of lonely people out there. Isn’t it odd there are is so much loneliness in such a mass of humanity?

Monk: Proximity does not necessarily lead to intimacy.

Pilgrim: Why do you think that is?

Monk: I believe we are profoundly discontent. We roam the earth in a desperate search to fill the void in our souls.

Pilgrim: You have nothing if not a flair for the dramatic, Monk.

Monk: I do not believe it is overly dramatic when you see the futile lengths people take to satiate their desire for intimacy.

Pilgrim: I think I see where you’re going with this. You’re referring to the God-shaped void in each of us. I’ve heard others use that illustration.

Monk: A void? Perhaps. I see it more as a broken relationship. Our God created us to be in relationship with him. When we rebelled, we claimed our independence from God without realizing the terrible price it cost. Without that relationship, we are incomplete. We are left empty and alone.

Pilgrim: I never considered loneliness to be a spiritual problem.

Monk: Loneliness and discontent are merely symptoms of a greater problem. Once we reconcile with God, those disappear.

Pilgrim: Are you saying that you don’t feel lonely out here in the wilderness because of your connection with God?

Monk: Most of the time, yes. Remember, we still struggle with rebellion and sin. But, through Christ, we know God and are fully known.

Pilgrim: When you think about it that way, it’s a wonderful gift God offers to humanity.

Monk: Yes, Pilgrim, it certainly is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Denominational Unity

Pilgrim: Monk, why are there so many Christian denominations?

Monk: Never underestimate the capacity of Christians to argue with each other over every possible issue.

Pilgrim: Shouldn’t they behave better?

Monk: Of course, they should. But when it comes to matters of personal faith, emotions run high.

Pilgrim: Are you suggesting most of the disputes among Christians are emotionally driven?

Monk: Many of them are, some are not. We should be thankful for many theological disputes. They helped to refine and organize the faith as we now understand it.

Pilgrim: So, are all these different denominations good?

Monk: I do not know if they are necessarily good or bad. I believe they are inevitable.

Pilgrim: That’s terrible, Monk. The church is supposed to be unified. What kind of testimony are we presenting to the world?

Monk: Unity is Christ is not defined by universal theological agreement. It is demonstrated in our universal submission to the risen Christ as Lord.

Pilgrim: What does that look like?

Monk: Our Lord himself described it to his disciples. ‘A new command I give you. Love one another just as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.’ We must learn to love those we disagree with.

Pilgrim: That’s interesting. The power of our testimony is in our love for Christ’s other disciples. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of that.

Monk: I agree with you, Pilgrim.

Pilgrim: What about those churches that are just so different from each other that they’re barely compatible?

Monk: Once again, our Lord provides the example to follow. The disciples told Christ that there were other people ministering in Christ’s name. The disciples wanted permission to silence them. Christ told them to leave them be. The Spirit will decide through whom he will minister.

Pilgrim: What if their teaching leads people astray?

Monk: We can only speak what the Holy Spirit leads us to speak. He will convict those who need it and guide us into His truth. We are ultimately responsible for our own ministries.

Pilgrim: There’s certainly enough ministry to go around.

Monk: God is bigger than our understanding. So is his church.

Pilgrim: That really helps me view the church in a fresh way. Thanks, Monk.

Monk: As always, Pilgrim, I am pleased to serve.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Is Knowledge Power?

Pilgrim: Monk, do you believe that knowledge is power? It’s something I’ve been told since I was young.

Monk: I suppose it depends on what kind of knowledge. Then again, any type of knowledge can be dangerous.

Pilgrim: I never thought of knowledge as dangerous.

Monk: Power is dangerous whatever form it takes.

Pilgrim: Wait, you said types of knowledge. What types?

Monk: Empirical, procedural, tacit, descriptive. There are many kinds.

Pilgrim: Wouldn’t all of them be good?

Monk: They can be, but that is not necessarily so.

Pilgrim: What do you mean?

Monk: It is quite possible to know too much.

Pilgrim: How is that possible?

Monk: Consider knowing someone’s deepest secrets. That is a heavy burden to bear. It can do unalterable damage to relationships to know what is in the shadows of another heart.

Pilgrim: Are you suggesting it’s better to keep secrets from each other? That’s not honest, Monk.

Monk: I wouldn’t say that. It is a fool who reveals every thought that forms in their head.

Pilgrim: That makes sense, I guess.

Monk: And, do we want to know sin? What pain and suffering it has caused to all of creation. We continue to struggle under the curse of that knowledge.

Pilgrim: Does that mean ignorance is truly bliss?

Monk: There are times it is. People who claim that knowledge is power tend to be the kind who use that knowledge to harm others.

Pilgrim: How do we know what knowledge is good and what is bad?

Monk: We must look to the Author of all knowledge and trust that He will guide us into what is good. But we must remember that what God intends for good can be twisted and corrupted.

Pilgrim: This got a lot more complicated than I wanted it to get. I never considered knowledge to be such a broad subject.

Monk: We are blessed to serve a God who will guide us through the confusion.

Pilgrim: Thank God for that, Monk. Thank God for that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Suffering and Reconciliation

Pilgrim: Do you believe the world hates followers of Christ? I mean, Christ told his disciples ‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you’. Was he speaking to us, too?

Monk: I do not see any reason why it would not extend to us.

Pilgrim: Why does need to be that way? I don’t mean to be immature, but I don’t like the thought of being hated.

Monk: Christ says his disciples would be hated because the world hates Christ. We are despised by association.

Pilgrim: Isn’t it possible to be obedient to Christ and be liked by the world? I don’t see why that can’t happen.

Monk: Friendship with the world makes you and enemy with God. More importantly, the hostility goes one way. The Apostle Paul writes that while we were God’s enemies, Christ reconciled with us through his sacrifice.

Pilgrim: What does that mean?

Monk: The world is fighting against God. He stopped fighting against us.

Pilgrim: That doesn’t explain why we have to bear the brunt of that hatred.

Monk: Well, you do not have to.

Pilgrim: What? How?

Monk: Deny Christ. It is no guarantee that the world will love you, but it will not persecute you because of Him.

Pilgrim: Are you making fun of me?

Monk: Just a little. It all depends on your focus. If you want short term happiness, chase after the world. Again, there is no guarantee you will acquire it. If you pursue the eternal, you be guaranteed to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit for eternity with our Lord.

Pilgrim: Is it really that binary of a decision?

Monk: Do you want something more complicated?

Pilgrim: I suppose not. I mean, the consequences of either decision is hard enough.

Monk: Be thankful. Without Christ’s redemptive work, there was no decision to make.

Pilgrim: That’s an interesting way of looking at it, Monk. Discipleship is kind of a privilege.

Monk: That it is, Pilgrim. That it is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: The Meaning of Life

Pilgrim: Monk, what do you think is the meaning of life?

Monk: What makes you think life has meaning?

Pilgrim: That’s an odd thing for you to say, Monk.

Monk: Why?

Pilgrim: Don’t you think it’s important for life to have meaning?

Monk: Not necessarily.

Pilgrim: If there’s no reason, then why live at all?

Monk: We live because we must. We did not decide to live. That is the choice of God. We do not decide many of the circumstances we experience in life. Some grow up in affluence and freedom. Most do not. Those who don’t are forced to struggle through oppression and poverty.

Pilgrim: Then we should live to improve the lives of those people.

Monk: It is a noble sentiment, if not misguided.

Pilgrim: Misguided? How?

Monk: This is assuming you are able to follow your pursuit. Let us say improving the lives of others becomes the meaning of your life. You pursue it with passion and zeal. Through perseverance you succeed in improving many lives. To what end have you accomplished this?

Pilgrim: I’ve made the world a better place.

Monk: Have you?

Pilgrim: Of course I have. The proof is in the lives I’ve changed.

Monk: You have changed them, have you? All you are capable of doing is opening up opportunities for others. It is up to them to take advantage of those opportunities.

Pilgrim: That doesn’t matter. As long as things are better. I don’t understand you, Monk. Why are you being so cynical?

Monk: It is not cynicism that fuels these questions. As I have already said, it is a noble sentiment.

Pilgrim: What makes it so misguided?

Monk: ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?’ We might improve the lives of everyone on earth, but it is still meaningless in light of eternity.

Pilgrim: So, I’m back to square one. I’m a man with no meaning in life.

Monk: That is not necessarily true.

Pilgrim: If you have a brilliant idea, I’m all ears.

Monk: Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Pilgrim: That’s pithy. What does it mean?

Monk: The first part includes what you already said. Be a blessing to others. Live with integrity. Act with impartiality.

Pilgrim: There’s a lot there, but I think I understand. The next part, too. Loving mercy is simple enough. I happily accept God’s mercy.

Monk: That is not what that means. You must love to show mercy to others as much as you receive mercy from God.

Pilgrim: That’s more of a challenge.

Monk: Especially when it involves showing mercy to those you hate or who hate you.

Pilgrim: That’s impossible.

Monk: You are correct, it is not something you can do. That is why there is a third element.

Pilgrim: You mean, ‘walk humbly with God’.

Monk: It is a gift he offers to those who submit to him as God. Walk with him knowing the measure of his mercy to allow it. Walk with him understanding the privilege given to us even though we are unworthy to do so. You will soon realize that walking humbly with God means walking with him into eternity.

Pilgrim: That’s a lot to process.

Monk: You have your entire life to do it.

Pilgrim: So, is that the meaning of life?

Monk: All I understand is the process. The full meaning comes once we have completed the journey.

Posted in fiction, flash fiction, short fiction, short story, story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Know it All

One day Monk saw Pilgrim carrying a stack of textbooks.

Monk: That’s quite a burden you are carrying.

Pilgrim: I’m pursuing another degree. It’ll be my seventh.

Monk: That is impressive.

Pilgrim: As they say, knowledge is power.

Monk: That is certainly one perspective.

Pilgrim: You don’t doubt that, do you? Knowledge unlocks the very mysteries of the universe. It is the key to solving the problems facing our world.

Monk: I do not believe that is necessarily true.

Pilgrim: Certainly, you don’t believe ignorance is bliss.

Monk: It is not an either-or proposition. There are times when it is good to know something. Then again, there are many things I do not wish to know. Some are even harmful. Adam and Eve taught us that.

Pilgrim: Okay, sin is a bad thing to know. I concede you that. Everything else is good.

Monk: I am sorry, Pilgrim, but again I disagree. To know all about God is vastly different that to actually know God.

Pilgrim: You have to admit those are two different types of knowing. One is experiential, the other is empirical.

Monk: But it is possible to know the wrong person as well as the wrong thing. Come to think of it, you can know the wrong experience as well.

Pilgrim: If that’s all true, then is it possible for God to be harmed by having complete knowledge? He knows everything, right?

Monk: That is a fascinating question. I do not deny that God knows everything. I am haunted by the question, does he want to? It is a terrible burden to bear the deepest secrets of all things. How wicked are the hidden thoughts of all humanity. We know he grieved over his creation. I take that to mean the knowledge of our sin brought him some level of suffering. Should that be a surprise? Would we expect him to react differently?

Pilgrim: Are you suggesting the pursuit of knowledge is fruitless? Even harmful?

Monk: Not at all. Knowledge can be a great blessing. It is important to pursue the right kind of knowledge.

Pilgrim: How do we know what is right?

Monk: Begin by pursuing wisdom. This will guide you to the knowledge you need.

Pilgrim: That doesn’t really help. How do I get wisdom?

Monk: The writer of James tells us. If we lack wisdom, we only have to ask God and have faith he will grant it to us.

Pilgrim: That’s all?

Monk: If God’s word can be trusted.

Pilgrim: If you’ll excuse me, Monk, I have books to return.

Monk: I hope you find what you seek.

Pilgrim: Thank-you, Monk. I believe I will.

Posted in fiction, flash fiction, humor, humour, short fiction, short story, story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pilgrim and The Monk: Pilgrim’s Story

Monk: Pilgrim, I have shared some of my story with you. Would you share some of yours with me?

Pilgrim: What would you like to know?

Monk: How did you become a pilgrim?

Pilgrim: I’m not sure how interesting it may be to you, but I’ll happily share. I did not grow up knowing God. I didn’t need him.

Monk: That is a bold statement.

Pilgrim: At my birth my family was wealthy and only became wealthier as I grew. I was groomed to take over the family business and hoped to build an empire I could pass on to the next generation.

Monk: May I assume something changed your plans?

Pilgrim: We were on a family road trip. A semi-truck driver beside us fell asleep at the wheel. He drifted into our lane and forced us off the road. I was left with no one.

Monk: I am very sorry for your loss.

Pilgrim: Thank-you, Monk. There weren’t many who were. Who feels sorry for a wealthy man, no matter what he suffers? Then again, who believes wealth is actually about money? I would have traded all my estate just to have my family back. I was surrounded by things I didn’t want and was angry at a God I didn’t know.

Monk: That is a deep, dark pit.

Pilgrim: It was. Rage and fear were my only companions.

Monk: What happened?

Pilgrim: I wanted to focus my anger at God, but what God? Someone challenged me to meet God so I could have a target for my hatred.

Monk: That is a strange challenge.

Pilgrim: Looking back on it now, I agree with you. Somehow, at the time it made perfect sense. I can tell you I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Monk: It is difficult to think clearly when you are in such pain.

Pilgrim: Very true, Monk. I began to pray. I yelled at God. I screamed at him. Pleaded with him. For weeks on end, I cried out to him.

Monk: He rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Pilgrim: It’s funny you should say that. My whole life was in pursuit of wealth. Suddenly, God came to me and asked, ‘what is true wealth?’

Monk: That is an excellent question.

Pilgrim: It haunted me. It still haunts me. I gave up everything so I might find the source of eternal wealth.

Monk: I believe that is a worthy pursuit. What have you discovered so far?

Pilgrim: I met God. Perhaps it’s better to say, I’m meeting God.

Monk: That is a curious way to put it.

Pilgrim: Well, meeting God is a journey. There is always so much more of him to know.

Monk: It sounds like you are succeeding in your quest for genuine wealth.

Pilgrim: Thank-you, Monk. It is a blessing to have you part of my journey.

Posted in fiction, flash fiction, short fiction, short story, story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments