Following Jesus 159

Following Jesus: The Progress of the Pilgrim.

When I was growing up in Lincoln Park, MI, part of a larger community known as the Downriver area of Metropolitan Detroit, there was a shopping center 2.5 miles from my parent’s home. It was called the Lincoln Park Plaza. All of the some ten Downriver communities had these kind of shopping plazas. Some still exist.

Unlike today’s mall, it was a series of outside connected buildings which housed various businesses. The Lincoln Park Plaza at that time included two grocery stores, two department stores (J.C. Penney, and J.L. Hudson), a chocolate candy store (Sanders) and several exclusive men’s and women’s clothing stores. My mother shopped at several of these ladies fashion stores which included Lerner Shops, Winkelman’s, and one known as Vanity Fair. While the brand name Vanity Fair still exists, the store does not.

However, I recently discovered that the name of Vanity Fair does not just refer to women’s clothing but also the following:

However, before any of these past or current references used the name Vanity Fair, it was first used in 1678 as a place in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Writes Pastor Derek Thomas:

For John Bunyan, a Puritan to his fingertips, the Christian life was an experience of conflict and tension with this world (the flesh and the devil). Imprisoned for upwards of twelve years, he experienced firsthand the world’s hostility. Cheerful and sanguine (happy) by temperament, his portrayal of what believers can expect from this world is both solemn (serious) and dark: the path that leads to the Celestial City (heaven) winds through unavoidable places of considerable, even deadly, danger — places like the town called Vanity with its “lusty Fair.” Here, all the resources of protection and resolution will be needed to prevent contamination and possible destruction.

Christian, in Bunyan’s allegory, is both a pilgrim on a road-trip to heaven and a warrior in conflict with temptations from within (indwelling sin) and without (the world in its opposition to all things godly along with the devil). It is a principle that God teaches Christian early in the journey that every believer can expect to be both fascinated by and drawn towards the world. The world refers to the fallen world system which is hates God and His followers. (John 15:18-25).

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