The following post was written by my son, Brian. I hope you enjoy the connections he’s made between The Lord of the Rings and the gospel followed up by a challenge to adventure.
The Lord of the Rings has always been one of my favorite stories. When I was a kid I enjoyed it for its intense battles and cool special effects, but now I recognize deeper meaning.
One of the many reasons why this story touches my heart is Sam.
Sam is the loyal friend who came alongside Frodo on his seemingly impossible journey. Sam never gave up on his friend, even though Frodo tried to run from him more than once.
We’ll get back to Sam later.
Another great theme of this story is adventure. Sam and Frodo left the comfort and security of the Shire, leaving behind all the ale, food, and songs for a dizzyingly dangerous adventure.
I currently live in the Shire.
I live in the comfort and peace of the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I regularly enjoy a seemingly unlimited amount of comfort, coffee and food, while the terrors of poverty, war, oppression, injustice, and evil are far away from my doorstep. I have been given a blessed life and I am very grateful, but there is just something in me that is screaming for something greater, something that looks more like the gospel of Jesus, something that looks more like the book of Acts.
Gandalf’s arrival in the Shire and his invitation to Frodo reminds me of Jesus as he called his disciples.
“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:21-22)
This was the moment that changed these two brothers’ lives forever.
They started an incredible ride of persecution, struggle, betrayal, torture, and for James, martyrdom. These “sons of thunder” learned that calling down fire on a city is not always a good idea, they saw Jesus transfigured on a mountain, and most importantly they had an incredibly intimate relationship with Jesus that motivated them to live a life in bold and sacrificial service to him.
They gave up their comfortable Shire for a relationship with Jesus.
The lives of the apostles, the story of the rich young man, and the parable of the pearl of great price are only a few of the examples that come to mind that indicate that a core aspect of the gospel lifestyle is radical sacrifice of personal safety, comfort, wealth, social standing, reputation, possessions, careers, health, family, and a litany of other conditions that coincide with “the American dream.”
In exchange we get an adventure with Jesus. We get the blood sweat and tears of a life devoted to him. And, we get the Holy Spirit empowering us to boldly and radically obey the voice of God.
Which brings us back to Sam.
Sam kind of represents the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians. If we stay in the shire we will have a decent relationship with him; we would be acquaintances, maybe even chums. He will do our gardening. He will be there humbly waiting as we sit in quiet and safety.
Then Gandalf comes. Then Jesus says follow me and you go. You drop everything and start following, for he invites you on an adventure.
The Holy Spirit, like Sam, is your friend, your companion who never leaves your side no matter how many times you try to run away from him. He’s the friend who carries you up the mountain when you are too weak to do it and a companion that rescues you from danger even though you were deceived by an emaciated lying creature.
When you’re on an adventure with Jesus, the Holy Spirit is no longer just the buddy that you acknowledge when you go to church, He is your comforter, counselor, guide, helper, and strength.
So I guess the question to ask is, when you think of your walk with the Lord do you think adventure?
Is your heart so captivated by the person of Jesus that you would follow him anywhere?
Are you willing to step out of your Shire, and walk down into the valley of the shadow of death? This is not meant as a criticism of a certain lifestyle. This is meant to be a challenge to continually reach down from comfort and safety to touch and care for those who are needy and oppressed, because that is exactly what Jesus did.
The ultimate story of leaving comfort and safety is the gospel. It is Jesus stepping down from heaven to save us.
So what are you waiting for? If you find yourself in a hobbit hole, try to poke your head out and look around. I am sure you will find someone waiting to send you on another adventure.