His voice was dogmatic and harsh as he yelled at us over the roaring rapids. “Paddle left, paddle right, back paddle.” We did not resent his tone, in fact, we appreciated the guide’s demands because we had put our health and possibly even our lives in his hands. He had been through these boiling rapids many times and knew where the treacherous areas were. He had the trust of the rafting company to navigate through the dangerous boulders and tree trunks and return the raft and the passengers unharmed. We did not know much about the guide nor did we have a friendly relationship with him. We really didn’t care about his status, religion, race or background, but we obeyed his instructions completely and quickly.
There seems to be several parallels between this rafting trip and our soul’s spiritual journey down the river of life. Our souls are in the hands of the Godhead who created us and know the trials and temptations we face in this physical life. Jesus Christ navigated it and has given us instructions on how to best avoid Satan’s traps. (Jas 4:7) (He 2:17-18) At times it may appear as if their warnings are demanding and strict. (2 Tim 3:16)(2 Tim 4:2) (He 3:7-8) The reward, however, is great if we submit and obey. (2 Tim 2:12)
The ultimate authority, responsibility and liability belonged to the owner of the rafting company. The guide was his designated employee charged with protecting his investment and the customers. Christ is the ultimate authority of our souls. (Mt 28:18) No rational man should assume he can, “Lord it over those entrusted (delegated) (Acts 20:28) to you, but being examples to the flock”. (1 Pe 5:2-3)
What if those of us on the physical rafting trip had been offended and rebelled against the guide’s authority? Our overly-sensitive egos might have cost us our lives. The guide was not trying to lord it over us, rather tell us the best way to avoid disaster. In much the same way elders of Christ’s church want to preserve the flock entrusted to them. (Acts 20:28) (He 13:17) Obviously they can best tend a flock which “obeys and submits to their authority.” However, there will no doubt be times when they must admonish. (1 Thes 5:12) Just as those on that rafting trip learned to respect the hard work and oversight of our guide, the flock needs to hold their leaders, “in the highest regard in love because of their work.” (1 Thes 5:13) That would result in a joyous trip through life’s rapids. (He 13:17)