As I have been writing about offense versus defense in the context of a football analogy this week and including characteristics of good offensive players, I have tried to look at how this applies to us as believers charged with the Great Commission and called to be the offense for Christ in the field of the world. Let me today reflect just one more time in this context.
I have certainly never played football, but as I watch the game and consider the job of the offensive line I see that it is not as direct or straightforward as it might look neatly typed in black font on white paper. Yes, all the characteristics I mentioned are needed and one of the obvious reasons is that the defense is committed to prevent the offensive line from reaching their goal. Their main job is to stop the surge of the offensive linemen on a rushing play and to get to the passer on a pass play.
Putting it plainly: the defense will do anything and everything to stop you and these players are strong and tough and have never heard of simply tapping the offensive lineman to persuade him to turn back from his objective.
Those of us on Christ’s team face another ‘team’ that is no less committed to stop us. Christ’s enemy (and ours) is as determined as ever to deter us and seek to rob God of His glory that we can present Him as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Paul writes clearly about the armor we are supposed to wear in his familiar passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 (ESV):
“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”
The image Paul creates is crystal clear. I have often heard said there is no armor mentioned to cover the back because we are to always be moving forward and have others behind us that provide such cover. This is another example suggesting we are on the offense versus defense as the Lord’s team.
To be this kind of offensive player requires courage. Some might say it requires valor, pluck, grit, guts, moxie, backbone, boldness, or fearlessness. As I look at the list and assess myself in comparison to the list, I can find myself lacking. It is a poignant reminder that courage or any of its synonyms is not something you have because you have no fear, but rather it is something that you have because you move forward in spite of it and in that moment you gain courage.
I love the movie, Gettysburg, for many reasons and many scenes depicted in it, but one scene never fails to inspire me and leave me in awe. It is the depiction of the Battle for Little Round Top. If you know the movie or the story, I don’t need to tell you why I feel that way. For those of you who may not, let me share just a bit about what happens when a ‘team’ is asked to defend a position without adequate men, firearms, or ammunition. (Add to that the team’s weariness from many days of walking great distances and fighting other battles.)
The 20th Maine Regiment of the Union Army under the leadership of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is given the assignment that will protect the high ground of the battlefield at Gettysburg from being taken by the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee. The orders are specific and clear: “This is the left of the Union line. You are to hold this ground at all costs.”
Time and again the Confederate forces charge up to try to gain the ground and push the Union troops from their position. They have done their best, but with a depleted line and ammunition running out, Chamberlain decides on a new tactic. He orders the troops under his command to fix bayonets and charge down the hill into the two Confederate regiments. He ordered they use a right-wheel maneuver as they came down the hill. It was a risky decision with the possibility of loss of life great because they were outmanned and out gunned compared to the men charging toward them. He has ordered them to take the offense.
The last thing the Confederate troops are expecting is just such a stance of offensive tactics and the plan succeeds and goes into the annals of history as a pivotal point in the historic three day Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.
They epitomized the characteristics needed to mount a good offense: intelligence, toughness, work ethic, good character, and athletic ability. I listed those in the previous post, but the one that was key that is also needed for anyone who plays offense is courage/valor.
There are many descriptions and examples of valor or courage, but I want to leave you with some words of Mark Batterson in Chase the Lion on the subject.
“Valor is a gift. Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes. And those having it in one test never know for sure if they have it when the next test comes.
Valor is less an action and more a reaction.
Valor is running toward trouble when everyone else is running away. Valor is going above and beyond the call of duty. Valor is putting yourself in the line of fire for someone else.”