Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.”

Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Philip said, “Come and see.”

—John 1:45-46

Much of what we build our safety and security around arises from assumptions and presuppositions. At first glance it may seem like these are the same thing but not quite. An assumption is something you think without having reason to. A presupposition is something you think because you have made your mind up about it without really knowing what you are making your mind up about. Nazareth was considered nowhere, a backwater village in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. Quite literally the nowhere of nowhere. Bethsaida, most likely a busting fishing on the Sea of Galilee, was where Nathaniel, Philip, Peter, and Andrew were from, and practically cosmopolitan in comparison. So, what Nathaniel was really saying is, why should I waste my time listening to some hick preacher from nowhere?

Good question?

For that matter why should we listen to anyone who is named names themselves a minister, teacher, prophet, or other type of mouthpiece for God?

When you get to the bottom of this, it is the question of authority. In the early church, the authority was supposed to be the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostles and their designated followers. After the Constantine came to power, the church began to place its authority in a handful of leaders—bishops who made up councils and from time to time, emperors. With the fall of Rome, church authority made its way to the papacy and popes became the authority. The Reformation brought certain freedoms of religion but also certain headaches. Sola scriptura, or only the scriptures, became the law of the land but for the last five hundred years the question has been one of interpretation. Who gets to decide what the scriptures mean? Who gets to say how that looks for disciples, church goers, and anyone else involved? This has devolved into a great and glorious mess where some thirty-five to forty-five thousand denominations and millions of preachers, pastors, speakers, and leaders vie for readers and listeners to hear and follow their interpretation.

I wonder about this often and I keep coming back to a certain metaphor to explain it all: the journey. We did not all start our Christian journey in the same place. We do not all have the same needs spiritually or emotionally. One person’s meat is another person’s milk. While some interpretations are better than others, there is a need for more than one viewpoint. I personally tend to lean toward the ones that promote love of God, love of neighbor, do no harm, growing toward and helping others grow toward health, healing, and wholeness. But my journey has not always been this way. It started with a very hate-filled, intolerant, uneducated version of religious practice and would its way through teachings and ideas that were Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, agnostic, Buddhist, Catholic, and Methodist to name a few. I still draw from all of those at varying times to continue the journey, taking the positive aspects that lead back to those core principles of life and practice in the Way of Jesus.

Simply put, no two people journey the same way. We may journey together for a time. We may journey in the same place with a certain set of people all our lives. Still, we will still be on different journeys and not all of us agreeing with those around us about those journeys.

I think the best things to ask ourselves are how can I journey well and how can I help others journey well?