Thursday, December 08, 2005

What's Your Target?

In the current controversy over the shooting of a man at Miami International Airport, it might be good to review the rules for handling firearms and shooting... and then make the obligatory spiritual application.

1. Consider all firearms to be loaded all the time.
2. Never point your firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
4. Acquire and identify your target.
5. Know what is around and behind your target.

I was actually thinking of these rules this week and working on something when breaking news hit about the sky marshal(s) shooting a man who claimed he had a bomb. My thinking wasn't about shooting something or someone. I was wondering about my target. Had I acquired the right target? Without going into mind-numbing detail on some of my shooting exercises in the past, let me merely say that I, during a practice house clearing exercise at a competition, once turned around and declared a room clear only to have the instructor point out the cardboard bad guy pointing a gun at me from the window. Had it been real, it could have ruined my whole day!

Raised in a hyper-conservative church, my early targets were liberal churches of Christ. I blasted, debated, and chewed my way through hundreds of sermons and letters about them. In my late 20's I went through a five to eight year change of heart and mind about matters religious. C.S. Lewis helped me a great deal with Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, both of which I read during a particularly painful time of my life.

So I changed my target. I have spent a lot of the last ten years or so preaching freedom in Christ and challenging those who have distilled the gospel into yet another legal system with a church sign out front. Most of my work has been to prove that people were free in Christ and free from tradition.

But I think I need to pick a new target. When I look out at my congregation on Sunday, none of our three services has a majority of people who came from any branch of the restoration movement. In one service the number is probably less than 30%. They don't need me preaching sermons that attack the legalists or traditionalists among us. They don't know those people and have no idea what I'm talking about. They need me to preach about how to live as Christ in a postmodern, and moderately post-Christian, world.

I have spent most of efforts, most of my life, in struggles with my brethren on the left and then on the right when they are not my enemy. My enemy is this aggressively secularist society and its hatred for the absolutes of faith. My enemy is a culture that doesn't mind if you go to church as long as it doesn't affect anything you say or do at school, in business, or about their entertainments.

It's time we began targeting the real threat to Christ's people, and it isn't the church. It's time we redirected our fire outside the foxhole, toward the enemy. The real enemy.

For we have met the enemy. And, this time, it isn't us.


At 12/08/2005 11:56:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

Really, it never has been us.

But we were so self absorbed that we didn't see that we were out there causing more harm than good in the name of God!

Yes, we need some "target" practice!

At 12/08/2005 01:03:00 PM , Blogger Jason Coriell said...

It seems that there are two fundamental approaches: attack that which is bad or exalt that which is good. It is easier to target something bad and blow it away. It is difficult to live/speak in such a way that exalts some aspect of the truth so that the observer/hearer is compelled to seek more. It seems that Jesus was more about the latter. Good post!

At 12/08/2005 09:41:00 PM , Blogger extremist said...

Amen Patrick. Amen and amen.

Your post reminded me of this, the first of many Peter Kreeft lectures I've listened to lately.

At 12/08/2005 11:05:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

Good post, though I can't say that the only target is outside the church. I, sadly, have seen many go away lost because of things done or said by members of the church. That said, I agree we should move on; the truth of the matter is we need to reach the lost rather than correcting the saved. God can handle the saved and their correction and we all need to reach out to the lost. I will do my best to obey the greatest command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I will do my best to obey the second greatest command: Love one another.

Be blessed.

At 12/09/2005 09:48:00 AM , Blogger mike the eyeguy said...


I agree that the images of culture "war" and "Christian Soldier" are apt ones for the "fight" set before us.

But I also feel that too often we Christians come across as dour and spiteful in our skirmishes with culture, so much so that people tune us out as just so much background noise. Too often, it seems, we are more known more for bitter bile rather than our salt and light.

Which brings up the idea of a "happy warrior." Someone who enjoys the joust and who can fight with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. I can think of no better example that G.K. Chesterton. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chesterton battled the secular intellectual giants of his day such as H.G Wells,Bertrand Russelll and Clarence Darrow. According to eyewitness accounts, he usually destroyed them in debate using ironclad arguments seasoned with winsome humor. Afterwards, he would shake their hands and then proceed to buy them a pint of ale at the local pub.

Fight, yes, but with honor, joy, adroit argument and respect for one's enemy--going for the jugular then looking for an opportunity to extend the hand of peace.

At 12/09/2005 12:49:00 PM , Blogger HeadsUpDad said...

The issue of the day seems to be "Holiday" vs "Christmas" - good example of your aptly named 'aggressive secular culture.'

So what are the rules of engagement for this fight?
>Do you boycott? That seems like a withdrawal to me.
>Do you debate? You cannot debate someone who rejects rationality & absolutes, for without these you cannot confidently "know" anything with certainty.

I think that living in Christ-likeness will ultimately win out, but the process will be painfully slow, and difficult. Win one heart at a time, by your good example. People will notice that your life "works" when theirs are falling apart.

Be obedient, and pray.

At 12/09/2005 01:43:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

As always, you are DEAD on Patrick!
I am tired of church wars......I am ready to battle Satan. I'm pretty sure he would much rather see us fighting each other. I won't be a part of that anymore.
Thanks for the reminder!


At 12/10/2005 11:06:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

The post from Laurie hits it on the head for me. I couldn't have said it better!

At 12/10/2005 05:45:00 PM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

David's right. The enemy is Satan. It isn't society or culture. They're just his pawns.

And they are people. Some of whom, once in a while, can be persuaded.

At 12/11/2005 04:12:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

Ouch! This one hits close to home. I admit my target of late has been the legalistic nature of the conservatism I was raised in. I have rejected it myself, but wanted to make sure that others knew of the downfalls of it all. It's time I keep my mouth shut a bit more and choose my battles wisely. It does me good to remember who the REAL enemy is. Thanks for the kick in the you know where.

At 12/12/2005 08:38:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Patrick,

Firearms are of the Debil!!!

The Debil I say!

I once shot my little pinky toe off. And I knew right then, guns are of the Debil!

By the way, Matt B. and Paul N. say "hi". If you are wondering which Paul this can be just remember back to a time out on the golf course when your partner almost got in a fight and asked you if his shirt made him look big.

At 12/22/2005 07:56:00 AM , Blogger Chalmers said...

There is a war going on right now, but the only weapon we have is Christ. We know that He is the Way and the Truth and the Light. So we need to be showing people the Way, offering them the Truth and reflecting upon them the Light.

There is no better opportunity than the Holiday vs. Christmas argument. Maybe it is time for we Christians to be honest about what Christmas is, where it came from and why we do or do not participate. "Merry Christmas" is not offensive, but neither is "Happy Holidays." Christmas grew out of something that had nary a thing to do with Christ and has pretty much returned there. Instead of fighting for a holiday, maybe we should be fighting for Christ. Bring people to Him, this holiday is nothing more than an empty shell. He is the core of the matter. This Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, etc. give the gift of Christ to your fellow man. That is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Sorry for the ramble Patrick. As always, your posts lead to deeper thought and consideration. Peace be with you and your family.


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