By Derick Cranston
What exactly are “Christian ideals”? Are they a set of rules? A list of do’s and don’ts? I don’t believe they are so much a set of rules, as they are landmarks on a journey. Ideals require some sort of response or action. We cannot fully appreciate ideals until we take that first step on our journey toward divine union with our creator and redeemer. As Christians we are all on a journey. Early on Christians were known as “People of the Way,” and I believe this is an apt description.
I would like to share a true story with you that may shed some light. My friend Jack grew up in the 1940s. He was a tough, scrappy, Irish kid, who worked odd jobs since the age of 8 to help support his big family. No matter what, his mother always made sure Jack and his brothers and sisters made it to church on Sunday. He was married at age 17, and at age 18 his first child was born. This was also the year he was drafted into the United States Army.
Jack was stationed in Europe and spent four years in the army. He would always send half his paycheck home to help support his young wife and child. This meant that he often had to stay on base, when his buddies went off sightseeing or carousing in town. He didn’t mind though, because his family was very important to him; he loved his wife and child and would sacrifice anything to help them. The importance of family and sacrifice were ideals ingrained in Jack through his strong Christian upbringing.
After the army, Jack returned home and got a job on the city fire department. He spent the next 37 years there. He took all the hard dirty jobs nobody wanted, and worked extra shifts. Jack quickly rose through the ranks and became the fire chief and then a fire marshal overseeing several fire departments. During this time Jack and his wife raised four sons and put them through college. All went on to have successful careers. Jack was very involved with his parish, and his family went to church every Sunday. Last April, Jack shot and killed the woman he was living with.
Ten years previous, Jack left his wife of 44-some years for a woman who was 20 years younger than him. He alienated himself from his sons and family, and many of his friends. Jack moved in with the other woman, but never married her. They traveled a lot and had fun the first year or so, but then things started to unravel. She started to physically abuse him and Jack was under her complete control. She outweighed him by 60 pounds.
What had happened? Jack had begun making a series of bad decisions in his life. One bad decision led to another worse decision. Jack lost sight of his Christian ideals. He lost sight of the landmarks, and strayed from the path. It is so very easy to stray from the path of salvation. Every day we need to thank the Lord and ask for his guidance to get through the day. We never make it to the point in our lives where we don’t have to pay close attention. Every day we have to make a conversion of heart, and keep the cross of Christ in front of us.
If we don’t, we may very well find ourselves like 72-year-old Jack, sitting in the county jail awaiting trial for murder. It can happen. It does happen.
(Editor’s note: Cranston’s column is based on a talk he gave at a men’s Christian retreat.)