When Prophets Get Things Wrong, and People Get Things Right: A Parable

Once upon a time there was a tribe of islanders traveling across the vast ocean to get home. They had been traveling for days and they knew it would be many days more before they saw any land. Each person sailed their own boat, full of supplies, but they stayed together in a family “fleet” for the long journey.

With no landmarks and no compass, they relied on their chieftain to guide them home.

One night, as they floated under a canopy stars, a young man called out, “Chieftain, how do you know we are going the right way?”

The Chieftain gestured broadly at the sky, “You see, these lights are our ancestors, who guide us. If we follow them, they will lead us home.”

The Chieftain dipped his hand into the sea, “You feel the flowing power of our mighty water spirits, which push our crafts while we sleep. Those water spirits will carry us home.”

The young man was bothered by this. All night he wondered about it. Ancestors? That can’t be true. Water spirits? He had never heard of such a thing. He asked his friends and family in their own boats, “Are the stars our ancestors??” Some shrugged and didn’t care. Some said “yes!” emphatically. Different answers from different people.

“The stars are burning balls of gas, billions of miles away!” the young man shouted. “Stop listening to the chieftain, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”

Some tribe members argued with him. Some ignored him. Some agreed with him. But, to the great frustration of the young man, the tribe kept following the stars!

“There are no water spirits!” he proclaimed, “Just ocean currents!” But for some reason people didn’t understand why he was so angry. They continued to sleep at night, trusting the water spirits. This only made him more angry at their blindness.

What a mistake, he thought. This navigation method isn’t true! Nobody is listening!

Finally he realized, I can’t be a part of a lie.

So the young man changed his course away from the tribe. He no longer wanted to be led by a person who was so obviously wrong. A leader who was clearly lying to his people to preserve his power! A harmful leader, surely!

People cried, they called out for him. They begged him to come back. But being right was more important to him than being with his family. He felt even more hurt when he saw that his family chose to stay with the tribe rather than go with him. “They don’t really love me,” he told himself.

And he was right! Everything he researched and learned about the stars and the currents was true! But he was also lost.

After all, it doesn’t matter if the stars are the spirits of our ancestors, or massive fusion reactions in space, or pin-pricks in a dome. What matters is whether or not we get home. And the chieftain, as wrong as he was about what the stars really are, still safely led his tribe home.

Your experience with church will be like this. There will be lots of people who get things wrong. Who teach things that aren’t true. Who will make you roll your eyes and wonder “how could this person be a leader.” It will demand charity of all of us to make do with imperfection all around us.

We don’t follow prophets because they get everything right. We follow them so that we can return home, in families, safely.

Belonging to the church brings many many blessings. Peace and guidance for the hard times in life, a higher standard of morals for the people you associate with, a closer connection to God. There are lots of good reasons to choose discipleship. Most important of all, is that discipleship works wonderfully

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