David Braesheres, mountaineer and film maker, was on CBS last week. He has climbed Mount Everest five times. When he first climbed in 1985, his party was alone on the world’s most spectacular and infamous challenge. He was the 135th person to reach the top. Recently, on his 5th climb, there were 300 people at base camp when they left. The news station showed video of a traffic jam of climbers on the imposing natural structure. Apparently, it’s not as imposing at is used to be.
I don’t imagine the mountain has gotten significantly smaller due to erosion. The challenge is still extremely dangerous. But what most people had dared to attempt is now being conquered by many. Something amazingly difficult is now within reach and is on its way to becoming common, so more people are doing it. A 73-year-old woman has done it! There is something about seeing success against in insurmountable task that makes is surmountable.
But, success has its down side. Braesheres said that there are “no regulations to climbing because the essence of the sport is free will.” More people make it more dangerous because you don’t know if they’re experts or novices. Everest is still the pinnacle of challenges for all climbers. It is also the most risky. While Braesheres follows certain safety rules and knows he can count on the ability of his team, it only takes one novice on the mountain to bring about disaster for anyone.
There’s a parallel with the church. The letters in the New Testament are filled with the Apostles warning the early Christians about the novice Christians infiltrating the rapidly expanding number of followers of Jesus Christ. Despite persecution, the success of the new religion was apparent, and many wanted to take a stab at making it the mountain themselves; but they wanted to do it their way instead of the way Jesus had taught his disciples. Still true today.
There are dangers as well. Living in community is crucial to the Christian experience. In our poser-infested society it’s difficult to pick out who is truly following the Messiah and who is just blending in with the crowd. That’s why it is so important to know and live the Word of God. There have been many successes, but there have been far more failures. The worst kind of pain in this whole church thing is partnering with people who are enthusiastic about following the Word of God until it clashes with their free will. You can’t climb Mount Everest just going to the spots you can do well, but people still approach their spiritual journeys with Jesus in that way. It’s a danger we must look out for, but standing firm on God’s Word – despite the tendencies of those around you – is the only way to keep your footing. It can be the hardest thing you ever do . . . but you must do it.
I was helping one of my daughters with her project on the five major world religions. The question of “why” came up for Christianity. Interesting question. People follow Jesus because only faith in him can save them from their sins. Because of Jesus, one day we will be with God in heaven. Until then, we must strive to get as much of heaven as we can right now. Jesus tells us how to climb that mountain:
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NLT)