When we for the first time were investigating life in this central Florida community where we now live, one of the places our good friend Bob showed us was the archery field and the targets on the field there. Just seeing those targets brought back the memory of a little kid (me) about 12 years old at a summer camp in southern Ohio called Camp Arrowhead, just outside of my hometown of Jackson, Ohio.
One day during that summer the camp director approached me (only the Lord knows why he asked me) and asked me to help a visiting archer set up a display for his archery demonstration to be held that afternoon. After we had set up the targets and the range in an open field area not too far from the main lodge, the visitor asked me if I wanted to try my hand at archery. Having never done it before, I eagerly said “yes” and he showed me how to do it. All I can remember is taking three shots. I aimed the first shot at the bull’s eye on the target and when I released the arrow it fell drastically short of the goal and buried itself in the grass about 10 feet short of the target. So for the second one, I aimed well above the bull’s eye, and yes, the arrow sailed far over the desired destination, getting lost in the weeds about 50 feet beyond the target. The third arrow I aimed at a point about halfway between the other two, and lo and behold, I hit the target. I missed the bull’s eye, but I did hit the target.
The other day, reading through the Gospel of Matthew, I came upon this verse: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Hmmm… perfection. That seems to be a pretty impossible target to hit, doesn’t it?
Two old country boys who were out in the woods bragging about how good of a shot they were. One of them told the other, “I bet you I can hit a bull’s eye from 300 feet away with my rifle.” The other, thinking that sounded pretty incredible, said, “OK, you’re on!” So the braggart took out his rifle and pointed it at a tree about 300 feet away. In an instant, he pulled the trigger and shot a hole in the trunk of the tree. Then he took a piece of chalk, walked up to the tree, and drew a target with the bullet hole right in the center. He then stepped back, faced his friend, and laughed, “Told ya I could!”
Many people today are a lot like that country boy, especially when it comes to moral performance. They shoot first, doing what they like, and then they draw the target around what they have already done, basing their morals and values on how they have already shot.
But for the true follower of Jesus Christ in the real world today, we have our target as far as morals and ethics are concerned: perfection. And when it comes to perfection, there is not one of us who has attained it. All of us have missed the target in one way or another. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Every one of us, including you and including me, has missed the mark.
So rather than repainting the target around our conduct, the challenge for each of us is to look to the One who has already hit the bull’s eye for us. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Trust in Jesus, then you and I will hit the spiritual bull’s eye not through our performance, but through the perfection given to us through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
What kind of archer are you?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.