An azimuth is a “quantitative measure of direction.” Those in the Army (who are acquainted with land navigation) normally think of an azimuth in terms of degrees – 360 of them – on a compass. Once the Soldier’s location and destination are known on a topographical map, he or she can “shoot an azimuth.” This means they can determine the azimuth-direction or the degrees on a compass they need to follow. As they pursue their destination-objective, they keep checking their compass – to make sure they’re headed on the right azimuth.
Along with repeatedly checking their azimuth-direction to make sure they’re going the right way, there’s something else they need to do. They must also compare the nearby terrain features (hilltops, valleys, ridges) with those which appear on the map. If the map says that they should reaching a hilltop and they’re actually descending into a depression, then something is wrong. It could be that they’re headed on the wrong azimuth. They need to conduct a map check and an azimuth check. They may have to retrace their steps to their last known point to reorient themselves, shoot an azimuth again, and head in the right direction.
The Church of Jesus Christ is in desperate need of an azimuth check and a map check. Our azimuth is always Jesus Christ. Our map is the Bible. The “terrain features” are our attitudes and behaviors. If we are not following Jesus Christ as the Gospels and epistles portray Him, then we cannot help but get lost. We’ll land ourselves in a depression when we should be on a hilltop. In other words, we’ll be despairing over the plight of our world instead of rejoicing in God and His Kingdom. We’ll be consumed with anger and anxiety, instead of inspired to work for Christ and His eternal reward.
Why am I saying all this? Well, every election year brings a world of temptations to Christians. Their loyalty to Jesus can become divided and their focus lost. We can mistake political victory with spiritual gain – or political loss with defeat for the church. Election years get us into such a “fighting mode” that we forget that Jesus called us to bless and not to curse, to heal and not to hurt, and to love rather than to hate. He told us not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21). I’m afraid that, by the end of the election year, Christians tend to bear little likeness to their Lord.
Yesterday I saw an ad for political conservatives to reaffirm their values. The ad suggested they could do this by purchasing a ball cap that tells the world where they stand. Embroidered on the cap were the words, “Pro-Life, Pro-God, Pro-Gun.” Don’t ever believe that this motto is some kind of “Christian triad.” It’s not the Gospel. Being “pro-God” does not mean you’ve also got to own a gun or support the 2nd Amendment.
Even if our nation’s Founding Fathers intended the 2nd Amendment as a means for citizens to protect themselves against an oppressive government, is this what Jesus wants us to do? Even if the law allows a Christian to own firearms, do we actually believe Christ would condone using them against a government agent who tries to take them away?
Now, please understand, I am not anti-2nd Amendment. I own an AR-15, which I purchased to kill the coyotes and raccoons that have been picking off our chickens. But I cannot bring myself to use this weapon against an ATF agent who might come to confiscate it.
Recently, I read the passage in Philippians 2:3-11, where Paul tells Christian believers what their mindset should be. He tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). We cannot “value others above ourselves” and be intent on killing them.
Look at the example Paul uses. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
This is not suicide – this humbling of ourselves, valuing others above ourselves, and becoming obedient to the point of death. This was the way Jesus Christ conquered sin and Satan, purchased our redemption, and achieved the ultimate exaltation. And for all the saints who have followed Jesus this has been the means of the Gospel spreading, the church growing, and the saints being glorified. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” wrote Tertullian.
Let’s not lose sight of our leader, Jesus Christ. He is our azimuth and as long as we keep Him in sight and follow in His steps, we’ll always be where we need to be. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
PRAYER: Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.” (St. Francis of Assisi)