Imagine you are plunked down into the middle of a forest wilderness, and given two choices as to how you will navigate it: you could be given a map and a compass....plus a row of little red flags to follow, each one marking your every step. Or you can be given a compass, and a map with a few significant points marked on it...and that is all. Which would you choose?
Most choose the map and compass and little red flags. And so it is with our relationship to God. What was intended to be the adventure of a lifetime, gets turned into boring, relentless do's and don't's dotting mile after mile a path that we are sure leads us to our destination, but takes no thought, no relationship, no real risk. But we follow those little red flags faithfully, consulting the map and compass without understanding either of them - all while keeping our eyes peeled for the next red flag. We feel so smug about our progress, mistaking our lack of imagination to be personal discipline.
Give me the way of the orienteer, any day. Give me the compass of grace, and the map of the gospel, plus nothing. This is the journey of a lifetime, this one life I have been given! I don't want to be looking for the next red flag, I want to be truly engaging the map and compass...
...and I want to need the others who travel with me.
The way of the red flag requires no effort towards true community. In fact, those little markers encourage dis-unity. If someone offends you, if anyone dare disregard one of the red flags, particularly one you deem important, or should anyone leave the way of the red flags and ask you to continue with them, using only your map and compass - regardless of how much you love them, it is an easy decision, requiring only a few weeks or months to make. You simply part company with them. After all, you have those red flags - who actually needs relationships? You can make this journey on your own if you have to.
All red flaggers are in the powerful position of being able to patronize each other, relying on one another's strength and giftedness only when it suits them, and avoiding the discomfort of setting aside their personal peace and preference. Those who journey with naught but compass and map realize their need for each other, and find themselves setting the individualism of ideals aside in favor of the real, hard-won wisdom that is found in a multitude of counselors, particularly those who have been in this part of the wilderness before and found their way out without the red flags.
There is safety in numbers. Safety is of paramount importance when there is actual adventure, versus simulated adventure.
For the orienteer, it isn't enough to follow the red flags. The orienteer wants to "orient" his whole being towards the destination. He will re-work and re-direct over and over again if necessary. He will get lost along the way, yet he is the truly disciplined one. And he discovers at adventure's end that his entire self - mind, heart, will, body and strength - has been integrated into a healthy whole. The way of the grace-compass and gospel-map absorbed him fully and challenged him relentlessly and changed him completely.
So as various believers come up out of the wilderness, how do you know who is who? How can you tell the red-flaggers from the orienteers?
The orienteers are dirtier. Messier. The red-flaggers are merely a bit bedraggled.
The red flaggers emerge either alone or quarrelling or walking in large-but-tolerably- compatible groupings.
The orienteers emerge together...triumphant, smiling...each one leaning on the arm of another.