A while back, I was in the Oakland California airport, working my way through TSA security for my flight home following an event sponsored by West Coast Christian Writers. As I shuffled through the security cattle stalls, I noted that the screening process was significantly slower, and more stringent than anything I had previously experienced, so much so that I texted my wife and son saying that the threat level must be elevated.
Having made it as far as the x-ray conveyor and naked-body scan, I saw the TSA officer pull my jacket off the line and begin subjecting it to a rather intense search process. Apparently, he was attempting to determine the explosive properties of the Clif Bar in the jacket’s outer pocket.
The officer’s humorous obsession with the Clif Bar slowed the process to an even more frustrating pace than we had previously enjoyed. Those behind me sighed and grumbled about the inconvenience of it. While I understand the frustration of heightened security, I do appreciate the TSA’s desire to provide passengers with a safe flight. That said, the incident gave me pause to reflect on our tendency, at times, to focus on things we ought not be focusing on.
I was recently engaged by a Christ-follower who is on a one-woman mission to get everyone in the body of Christ to accept that current-generation believers are obligated to follow the Law of Moses. Similarly, in another discussion, a gentleman is determined to restructure every believer’s view of the tithe. Yet another Christ-follower, my dental hygienist, was convinced that I should persuade her pastor to preach extensively on the apocalypse, because she is terrified of end times. It is difficult to object while she is manipulating farm implements inside my mouth.
In each of these cases (other examples abound), the believer is on a personal mission to change the way others view and engage their faith. The protagonist is laser-focused on a single, burning issue for others, rather than focusing on their own walk with Christ. The personal mission grows to the point of obsession, almost as though their faith and their salvation are dependent on their ability to persuade you and me to view these doctrinal matters the way they view them.
It is true that the apostle Paul told Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1st Timothy 4:16). For me, the operative term in that exhortation is “your.” Paul did not say Timothy was to focus his magnifying glass on everyone around him, but rather to watch his own life and doctrine closely. He said this in much the same way that Jesus taught us to resist the urge to remove a speck of dust from a brother’s eye until we have successfully extricated the bridge timber from our own eye. (Matthew 7:5)
The obsession with correcting other believers in matters like those discussed above is counter-productive, not so much because it is judgmental (which it is) but more because it is a misunderstanding of the kingdom battle dynamic. We are focused on the wrong things. We find ourselves wrapped up in battles with the world over ideology and policy, and battles with other believers over theology and practice. We don’t even understand who the enemy is!
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12, NASB
In no case is it ever true that the enemy is the man or woman standing in front of me. The battle we fight as Christ-followers is a battle that is taking place in the unseen realm. It is a spiritual battle that will be won with spiritual weaponry. We need to pull our minds off of what we can see and begin focusing them on what we do not see, what we cannot see, but which is every bit as real as what we do see.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2, NASB
Set your minds on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. – Hebrews 3:1, BSB
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, – Hebrews 12:2, BSB
Blessings upon you my friends.
Victoriously in Christ!