Confession: Every once in a while, I like to read a western. You know, an old Louis L’Amour story with a good guy, a bad guy, and all their friends and enemies scheming and fighting over–something.
I’m not perfectly certain why I like them. I like that the good guy always wins over ominous odds. I like the excitement, I suppose. I like the characters’ capability to handle whatever situation confronts them. I like the beautiful, dangerous, wild land where the story unfolds. I like the code of honor, so to speak, that all the decent characters adhere to.
Anyway, I enjoy them. But, honestly, it’s a purely superficial enjoyment. Because, when I stop to analyze the story, there isn’t much that’s worth holding on to. Let me explain.
Many of the fights start over land. Or cattle. Or power.
And even the good guy is prepared to kill people–people with immortal souls–over land, or cattle, or power. None of which will be worth the powder in a cartridge when he meets his Maker. All the land he deeply loves, all the power he wields will mean nothing when he stands before God to give account of his deeds done in the flesh.
Now, generally, the good guy will eventually shift his goal. Instead of fighting for the land, he starts fighting because the bad guy is just plain wicked, often stealing something from someone who can’t defend himself–or herself. (Throw a bit of romance in; it helps the story immensely.)
So the good guy takes the side of justice, and law, and human kindness. Admirable. In fact, the Bible advocates it.
‘Thus says the LORD: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
-Jeremiah 22:3 (NKJV)
But. (You knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right?)
But the bad guy still has an immortal soul. A soul Jesus died to save. A soul the Lord loves.
In the end, he dies. (Once in a while, they let him depart in disgrace.) And, yes, the bad guy deserves to die. The good guy is decidedly in the right. By all human law, all human morality and decency, the bad guy deserves what’s coming to him.
But, in the eyes of the Lord, the good guy is just as sinful as the bad guy.
God doesn’t place degrees of wickedness on sin. The bad guy kills; the good guy cusses. Sin is sin compared to the holiness of God.
Now I’m not saying the bad guy shouldn’t pay for his crimes. I’m not even saying he shouldn’t die.
I’m saying that a Christian should never be casual about a person’s death.
Even if the person needs to die–even if it’s not a pointless death as regularly happens in westerns–his soul still plunges into eternity, unready to face the Lord. That should never be a nonchalant event. But in the western, it always is.
So what am I trying to say though this rambling?
I’m reminding myself that, with God, it’s all about souls.
Not land. Not money. Not power. Not even personal rights. It’s about souls surrendering to their Creator.
Is it really worth killing someone to stay on land I legitimately own? Well, many factors influence that question, but I dare to say: “Not always.” If I’m fighting for others, like my family, perhaps. If I’m fighting to stop someone who will only do worse if allowed to succeed at small crimes, perhaps. But if I’m fighting for only myself, maybe I need to give up.
Because what really matters is not what I want, or what I think is right. What matters is what is important to God–saving souls.
Of course, none of this is even relevant to our times. (I hope.) So why write a weblog post about it?
Because, as innocent as entertainment may be, it will subtly influence my thinking. Whether I like it or not. Whether I realize it or not. I can’t keep putting this stuff in and expect to have no alteration in my thoughts. The brain doesn’t work that way.
I have only so much time for entertainment in life. I want the best entertainment–stuff I don’t have to filter too closely to make sure it’s not influencing me the wrong way.
That’s why at the top, I said, “Every once in a while.” Maybe it doesn’t hurt to breeze through an old western on a rainy afternoon.
But it pays to be aware.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
-1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)