We were driving through Wisconsin, on our way from Ontario to Saskatchewan and planning to stop at friends for supper and night. There was a little sign beside the road saying “Twelve Foot Falls” with an arrow indicating the direction. On a spur of the moment impulse I pulled off onto the side road. For a few miles it was a fairly decent gravel road, then it dwindled to a trail through the bush and finally ended. There in front of us was “Twelve Foot Falls,” a creek bubbling down in steps over the rocks. I’m sure that it did drop a total of twelve feet, two feet at a time. We could walk across on the rocks.
That little side trip has been a family joke ever since. Dad goes right by all the really interesting places along the way because we don’t have time to stop, then takes this long winding side trip to Twelve Foot Falls.
Solomon saw this tendency in mankind and commented: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Substitute simple for upright, as one version does, and detours for inventions as in the French Louis Segond translation, and you have the basis for my thoughts. God has a simple, straightforward way for us in life, but we often take detours and go off on little side trips.
Some folks insist that baptism has to be by immersion. This opens up a whole raft of options. Does the baptismal candidate go into the water backwards or forwards? Is it enough to go under the water once, or does it have to be three times — once each for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Can the baptism take place indoors, or must it be outdoors? If outdoors, will a lake do, or does it have to be running water? This is a fruitful field for study and discussion and may possibly lead to forgetting why one wanted to be baptized in the first place.
Others get all wrapped up in investigating what the Bible says about the end times. There are lots of authors and speakers eager to help us understand this subject. Unfortunately, there are just about as many points of view as there are authors and speakers. We can get so wrapped up in trying to sort this all out that we forget the part about being ready when Jesus does return.
This is just scratching the surface, there are many other topics that occupy the minds of folks who are really in earnest about understanding the Christian way. All of these things lead us off on interesting detours which may, or may not, eventually reconnect with the narrow way that leads to the celestial city.
Yet the way is simple and straightforward. Jesus said that all we really need to do is “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
However, these two commandments require self-denial on our part. The detours do not. That is the appeal of the detours; and their danger.