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“My dear Frodo!’ exclaimed Gandalf. ‘Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [1]

Good books are a lot like Jonah and the great fish; they swallow you up, sometimes for days even, and then spit you back out into the world. And like Jonah in the belly of the fish, our time in a good book never leaves us unchanged. At least that has been my experience in reading the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, and countless others.

Quite often a particular character within a story resonates with and keeps us coming back to that same book again and again. Our favorite players in the written drama possess a wit or wisdom, a humor or humility that we gravitate towards. Ever since I first read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Tolkien’s beloved hobbits have been among my favorites. I have found that Gandalf’s words above ring true, not only in Middle-earth, but in our world as well.

To be sure, the hobbits of Middle-earth can teach us a great deal about life on this earth. As Thorin says to Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” [2]

And yet, in this wisdom, there lies a deeper wisdom for the Christian life. What could hobbits possibly teach us about the Christian faith, life, and witness? I think it fair to say, quite a lot, especially in our many and various daily callings as Christians (our vocations). And to be even more specific, can we learn anything from hobbits about our Christian vocation of evangelism? I think so as well.

Gandalf-1-350x250To begin with, then, it seems only fitting to continue on the road where Gandalf’s words point us: friendship.

Friendship is an obvious, though perhaps overlooked theme, in Tolkien’s writings. Were it not for friendship, the Fellowship would not have been assembled, much less made it as far is it did on their journey to Mordor. Were it not for friendship, or at least the elven word for friend, the company of nine would not have made it into Moria. And were it not for friendship Frodo and Samwise would not have made it to the footsteps of Mt. Doom.

But what of friendship and evangelism? In evangelism, just as in salvation, God works through means, specifically His word and sacraments. Faith comes by hearing, Paul writes. And this word is spoken, quite often between friends. Here is the joy of God’s work through the doctrine of vocation. It is good to send faithful missionaries around the world to preach the Word. And it is also good to give a reason to anyone who asks for the hope that is within us. So, we declare and defend our Christian faith within our daily vocations, especially in the vocation of friend – whether that’s around the world or in our little shire.

Consider how J.R.R. Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’s friendship was instrumental, both in answering Lewis’s objections to the Christian faith and in bringing him to faith in Christ. Tolkien taught Lewis to see Christianity both as historical and mythical, as factual and a beautiful, meaningful story – the one myth that is also fact. And Lewis was, in turn, an intellectual and imaginative midwife of sorts for Tolkien as he labored to write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Consider also the biblical examples of John’s Gospel. Jesus called Philip. And Philip came to Nathaniel and said, We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth! Come and see.

The Gospel itself is the true story of the greatest friendship of all – Jesus who is the friend of sinners. He comes to our house. He eats with us. He feeds us. He lives, dies, and rises for us.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

And I’m sure we all have friends in need of Good News.

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994, p. 61.
[2] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Miffling, 1994, p.274.