It doesn’t matter how many biblical movies you’ve seen, or how many Holy Land slide shows you’ve endured, or how much of the sacred text you know–nothing takes the place of being there. No virtual experience can fill up our senses.
I grew up during the Cold War watching fearsome May Day parades through Moscow’s Red Square on television, but being in Red Square – taking in the beauty of St. Basil’s Cathedral – descending into the hellish red granite of Lenin’s tomb – living, loving, and laughing with Russian people, presented a different Russia. Fifteen years of engagement there with OneHope completely rewrote the ethos and pathos of that place in my heart. I grew up with missionary films of Africa, reading National Geographic and marveling at the exoticism of Wild Kingdom, but riding my bike in Africa changed everything. Having narrowly avoided being taken out by a mad ostrich, flying past wild elephants in a pace line, watching a dozen giraffe cross the road ahead, I know a different Africa. And what of a God who is shrouded in ritual and mystery, distanced by millennia, reduced to a Sabbath observance – can we know God if He cannot be experienced? Will our religion be propositional or personal?