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'Winging It

    by Stan Smith

Hitting the Target
Date Posted: May 24, 2023

Look, you gotta cut me some slack. I mean, I was only a junior high kid. It sounded good when I said it. I don't remember how the conversation came about, but I remember talking to my 8th-grade teacher, Mrs. Proud, at the Christian school I attended about my older sister who had been her student before. We were talking about the decline in morals in society. I told her not to worry about my sister. "When the rest of the world is going nude, she'll be wearing a bikini," I assured her, as if it was a good thing.

Remember the story of the two guys camping out on the African Serengeti? They notice in the night the glow of a lion's eyes just at the edge of the firelight. One of them starts pulling on his shoes. The other says, "What are you doing, man?? You can't outrun a lion." He replies, "I don't have to outrun him; I just have to outrun you."

There's a point to that story and it relates to the first. Welcome to the standard measure. Ever hear of Godwin's Law? It's an Internet adage. "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches." What does that mean? Well, if we want to point out evil, all we need to do is mention the Nazis or Hitler. Why? Because we all know that they were evil. And we're all pretty sure we're better than they are, so we're better off. And so it goes. How about that drunk that lives down the street? "Well, maybe I drink a little too much from time to time, but at least I'm not as bad as he is." We comfort ourselves by comparing ourselves to ourselves. "That wife-beating husband is far worse than I am, so just because I'm not very kind to my wife is no reason to think I'm a bad fellow." And it seems as if we can always find someone worse than we are. So we're okay.

Jesus told this parable.

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:10-14).

We all know that the Pharisee was a jerk ... but we rarely notice that we're just like him. We compare ourselves to people we deem worse than we are and classify ourselves as nice people. But here's what Jesus said our standard was to be:

"You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

Ouch! Now that's a standard we're not meeting, isn't it?

You see, that naïve junior higher bragging about how moral his sister was failed to ask, "Is it good that she wears a bikini, or should she be wearing more?" Because the Bible calls for modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). But my childhood standard was simply "a little better than the culture." And so we end up like the two guys on the Serengeti running for our lives and thinking we're okay because we're ahead of the other guy. You know lions hunt in packs, right? And that's why there is so much sexual immorality among professing believers and why biblical morals seem so far-fetched to us these days. We're not looking at those; we're looking at the other guy, and we're not as bad as that ... while the other guy sinks lower and lower and so do we.

Perhaps we need to reevaluate our standards. "A little better than the culture" when the world is defined as hostile to God (Romans 8:7; James 4:4) and under the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) is a lousy standard. We have a higher one to meet. We may think we're hitting the target, but we're aiming at the wrong one. And you know that the biblical word for "sin" means literally "to miss the mark", don't you?

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Biography Information:
Born and raised in a Christian home, I've been treated to immersion in the Word and squandered it. 'But God ...' I love the phrase. God has been faithful when I was unfaithful. At every turn He has crowded me to Him.

I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.

For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.