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The Wrong Way

by Tim O'Hearn

Ten years after Charles Lindbergh made history by flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Douglas Corrigan, who had been a mechanic for Lindbergh, made his own aviation history. He bought a trashed airplane and modified it for distance flight. He flew it from California to New York, surprising many people that the plane would make it that far. He intended to fly it across the Atlantic, but the authorities denied permission for safety concerns. They would allow him to fly back to California. He took off heading west, made a turn and disappeared into a cloud bank. Twenty-eight hours later he landed in Dublin, Ireland, and asked, “Where am I?” His claim was that his navigation equipment failed and he lost his way in the clouds, ending up going the wrong way. He has been known since as “Wrong Way Corrigan.”

Christopher Columbus was a fair sailor, but a terrible geographer. He thought Europe was larger than it was, that Japan was farther off the coast of China, and—most importantly—that the circumference of the earth was much smaller than it is. Hence, in trying to find a shorter route to the Orient, he ended up unwittingly going the wrong way and discovering the Bahamas.

Many times people end up going or doing things the wrong way. Sometimes it works out well, as in the above examples. Sometimes, it is a disaster, as it should be.

In recent years there have been a number of political issues that have garnered the attention of Christians. Abortion, marriage rights (particularly among gays), gun rights. As a rule, Christians have approached these issues as political. It is possible that Christians may use laws and courts to deal with these hot potato issues. They may even be successful in accomplishing some of their goals. This may be the wrong way, even if it achieves right things.

One problem is that in meeting their goals, some Christians alienate many non-believers. That has especially been true in the gay rights debates. Christians are branded as narrow-minded (which is not necessarily a bad thing), hateful (which is bad), and even violent. Some opponents of abortion have gone so far as hypocritically killing abortionists. Regardless of the rightness of their positions, some have brought discredit on God.

Passing laws and winning in the courts can sometimes be effective. Several states have laws limiting when a woman may get an abortion. Most states have limitations on the type and age of gun ownership. Every state has limitations on the use of alcohol and certain other drugs. Christians may have been able to get these laws passed. But that is not the right way.

What have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. (1 Cor 5:12-13)

The proper way for Christians to deal with issues of sin is to convert the sinner. Few are naïve enough to believe that will solve all the world’s problems. There will still be unbelievers. But if you want to stop killings, passing a law is only a temporary fix. Convincing a person that killing is a sin and that God forgives, but demands obedience, is a permanent fix for that one person. Teaching a person that homosexual acts are sin, but that “such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified” (1 Cor 6:11) will cause a person to stop sinning. This is true, regardless of the sin.

Passing a law to prevent sin may reduce it. Some people will follow the law, whether they believe in it or not. “Locks are not to keep bad people out; they are to keep honest people honest.” The one thing that law cannot do, however, is remove the guilt of sin. It can only identify sin. People don’t need laws; they need Christ. It is much better to do things the right way. Convert a sinner into a saint. Accomplish sanctification rather than mere compliance.