But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. – 1 John 2:11 (NIV)
“Mind the Gap,” the disembodied voice over the loudspeaker cautioned. People pushed and shoved to be the first through the opening subway doors. My friend and I crowded in with the other travelers and grabbed hold of the germ-coated steel bars that reached from floor to ceiling. The train gave a mighty lurch, and we were off.
The London Tube bucks and jerks like a Texas bronco. You can easily spot the tourists, because they are the ones holding on for dear life. Locals stand stoically with their arms crossed. They maneuver with the grace of a surfer on his board. Determined to fit in, I folded my arms and gritted my teeth as I tried to keep from crashing into the people beside me. I wanted to avoid that dreaded label — tourist.
I’m in with the In-crowd
Who wants “TOURIST” painted all over you like a cheap fake tan? I tried many tricks to fit in. I scoured the internet before we boarded our international flight to see what to wear in London. No bright colors for the proper Brits. And no jeans and ratty tennis shoes in the city. Their dress code trumped America’s more laidback view of “every-day-is-casual-Friday.”
My friend and I even resorted to speaking in fake British accents. I say, should we pop into somewhere for a spot of tea? No dazedly staring at street maps for us. We walked with confidence where we supposed the next train to be. If we were wrong, we could always turn around later.
Our sinister plan succeeded. People didn’t know we were fresh off the plane from the United States. With our London outfits and wannabe-Jane Austen accents, we blended right in. So well, in fact, that other tourists would stop us to ask for directions.
And we would give them.
Here comes the punchline
How many times have I asked spiritual directions from someone who was just another tourist? Some people seem to have it all together from their perfect couture to their take-charge attitudes. They step forward when the more introverted of us hold back, yet they are just as lost.
It can be hard to spot the sheep from the wolves in our platitude spouting society. People attend church service on Sunday morning because it’s the “right thing to do,” but will never spend a single hour in personal prayer. They don’t have a true relationship with the Heavenly Father. They’ve just signed up for another social club.
God’s word gives us directions for discerning those who are true followers and those who are only paying lip service to a higher power. 1 John 3:10 (MSG) says:
Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.
If I have a hard time discerning the sincerity of a person, I can remember the apostle John’s advice and apply his two tests. Do they try to live their life in a righteous way? And do they love the people around them? It sounds so simple. We list the exceptions and paint shades of gray on our problems these days. But sometimes there are still black-and-white answers.
Weird travel tip: The short, thick stripes painted on a London terminal’s floor indicate where the subway doors line up when the train pulls in. Stand near them, so you can be at the head of the stampede.