It’s one of the most memorable scenes in John Bunyan’s classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian and Hopeful are traveling The Way that leads to the Celestial City. The path is soft and conveniently located next to the River of Life, until a bend in The Way leads them onto rough terrain that’s hard on their feet. After miles of hard going, the wearied and discouraged pilgrims spy a softer path: Bypath Meadow. It’s a path that runs close to The Way, and they assume it will merge with The Way at some place down the road, probably when the going gets easier. Ah, wishful thinking.
It doesn’t take long before Christian and Hopeful discover that Bypath Meadow is more like a trap than a path. After a series of difficulties including storms, floods, and worst of all, capture and torture at the hands of Giant Despair, Christian and Hopeful narrowly escape from the dungeon of Doubting Castle. They learned the hard way this truth from Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a person, but it’s end is the way to death.”
In 2 John, the apostle rejoices that some are still “walking” according to the truth. But that note of encouragement is dampened by the reality that a number of former disciples have fallen away. The sirens of the antichrist (2John 7) have wooed them into running ahead down Bypath Meadow, and they have completely lost sight of The Way (2John 9; John 14:6).
At this point, we might half expect John to command this fledgling church to immediately start a rigorous Bible reading program or establish a theological training institute. Clearly these people don’t know the truth, and greater knowledge of Scripture can be a course corrective for those veering onto a dangerous path (2Timothy 3:16). Right?
But that’s not what John says. Maybe we’d expect John to build the walls of the church a little higher. Add a bunch of new rules about who gets in, launch a new accountability plan, and put new policies in place. But that’s not what John says either.
What does John say then? One thing: love one another (2John 5–6). No amped up Bible instruction or added rules. Just “love one another.” This may sound strange at first, but John is seeing to the source of many of our bypath blunders. He sees that down deep our waywardness is very often a result of a spiritual restlessness that arises when our communal bonds of love are weak or lost altogether. When we do not have a loving, “stick-together” community watching out for us, we drift onto bypasses that wind up leading to dead ends and disasters.
The gate is narrow and the path is difficult that leads to life (Matthew 7:13). Don’t go at it alone. Find a Hopeful to walk with you. You’ll need him. And he’ll need you.
Written by Nate Shurden