I recently hiked a mountain before sunrise. In the pitch-black night, it was very hard to see the little blue spray paint strips that marked the trail. A few times, I had to stop and search for several minutes before I could find that I was still on the path. (Or at least once, how to return to the path!) I was very thankful that frequently there was a much more visible marker to guide me—the Bates cairns, like the one in the photo. These rocks are intentionally stacked in a pattern to be easily recognizable as well as directional. (The top rock points out the direction of the trail.)
These rocks remind me of our calling as followers of Jesus. If Jesus is the Way (Jn 14:6), then we are to point others toward this Way. We have this high calling. Peter tells us that we are to be holy as God himself is holy (1Pt 1:16). Holy is actually a good way to describe the cairn. The rocks that make it up are holy rocks. They have been set apart (the literal meaning of the word “holy”). These rocks are set apart for a special purpose. They are not like the common rocks lying around in the foreground of the photo. Instead, the cairn rocks are living stones built by a Master Craftsman (1Pt 2:4-5), “living” because they guide people each and every day.
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We should be like these living stones. We should live up to our special calling, pointing others toward the Way, guiding them upward along the path. Our purpose is to serve–guiding those on the path, helping them succeed in their journey. We accomplish this by the way we live our lives each day. Our good deeds should lead others to glorify God (1Pt 2:12). We are to be a witness to the Way. This witness must be consistent, even when others mistreat us. Some hikers intentionally deface the cairns. Others build their own cairns, imitating what they do not understand. Both actions create problems for later hikers, who are impacted by such destructive tendencies (intentional or not). In a similar way, there are times when we will be abused or maligned. Some will see our good deeds but will assume evil intentions or ascribe false motives. When this happens, we are called to honor those who mistreat us and not to seek retaliation. Jesus himself gave us this example when he endured the cross (1Pt 2:15-17, 23). Let us follow his lead as we point the way toward him.