Updated: May 2
Life today is shockingly unstable. Incessant threats press upon our minds from every side. We are left to figure out how to maintain our sureness and equilibrium amidst all the instability we see. As followers of Christ, we have stories from scripture and ecclesiastical history that can assure and encourage us in these times. We need to look at these stories in order to find Christ’s faithfulness in them so that we can find a sense of stability amidst the instability we perceive in our own time.
Lessons from a Man Named Peter
Like Peter, in the gospels, who sank into turbulent waters around him—because of taking his eyes off Christ—we ought to be reminded of his mistake. We might be tempted to think, “oh, that was just allegorical or in a period unlike our own.” Perhaps then, we should consider the story of John Amos Comenius. Comenius was a 17th Century Czech educator, theologian, and bishop who lived amidst some of the most unsettling times in European history. During his era the Counter-Reformation raged, and the Thirty Years' War destroyed many countries, all while outbreaks of the bubonic plague ravaged the continent. Think of these factors allegorically as if they were the turbulent waters surrounding Peter.
In our own context of political and social instability, the world is coming out of a pandemic, more than 20 major wars are raging, and a globalist movement continues. Many religious people are conflicted by the direction of events in light of their understanding of certain biblical texts. We, too, can be tempted to give up our inner calm and feel as though we are in a time of abandonment. Are our eyes fixed upon Christ? Are we trusting in Him? Where is our hope? How are we dealing with a changing world?
Comenius and Labyrinth
We can find encouragement in John Amos Comenius and his Labyrinth of the World -and- The Paradise of the Heart. While the story is allegorical, it represents the undeniable realities of this life, which makes it timeless and transcendent. The author’s experiences within the world of his time play into the story, which adds a level of authenticity and connectedness to our own situations. Part of the imagery includes a gale on the waters, much like the story of Peter. Given the history of the times, Comenius’s life and the story will afford us encouragement and assurance during our own times of political and social instability.
Comenius outlines a political tyranny that subjects the world’s people to marginalization while claiming care and concern. Sound familiar? Comenius depicts living amidst a world where everything is vanity, violence, and destruction. Comenius has Pilgrim, the protagonist, struggle through a world that presents high ideals, but the reality is pathetic. Pilgrim’s guides smooth everything over and blame him for having too high expectations. But yet, Pilgrim—depicting Comenius himself—finds hope and encouragement. These are found when Pilgrim meets Christ and is ushered into a heart-felt relationship with God.
The kingdom of the world is not something we can escape. We must learn to live amidst a world run by unregenerate people because they serve the god of this world. Through the second half of the book—Paradise of the Heart—Comenius depicts an evocative experience with Christ amidst all the instability and destructiveness of the world. It also outlines how Christ wants us to enter into practical Christian living amidst an increasingly evil world without sinking down into it emotionally or becoming depressed. Comenius shows how we can co-exist with the kingdom of the world while being the kingdom of God emitting light, truth, and a reality the world cannot be for itself because these come from Christ and are inspired by Him.
Labyrinth of the World -and- The Paradise of the Heart is powerful in encouragement and reinforces the teachings of Christ. It does so not from a pie in the sky religious disconnectedness. Comenius was eminently connected with being “in the world but not of it.” He lost his country to religious and political factions fighting one another, forcing him into exile along with his persecuted sect of the Bohemian Brethren. He lost his entire family to the plague (Bubonic). Yet he rose above all this to maintain the identity and community of his persecuted band of believers. Additionally, he launched the reform of education based upon his understanding of how God made people. He offered the world something it had not given itself. I believe it was because God inspired these things within Comenius.
John Amos Comenius, like Christ, is despised and forsaken of men—a man of many sorrows and acquainted with grief. These are powerful elements for us to find encouragement. If Comenius could keep his eyes on Christ and His purposes—and not be drawn into the reductionism of human affairs nor sink into depression and uselessness; we can be inspired that even in our current situation, the same can be true for us. We can find a corollary between Peter and Comenius that ought to give us hope that since God inspired those before us to do His will, He will also inspire us if we look to Him and listen. Do you have a lot of angst about where the world is going?