Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)
Seeing life from someone else’s vantage point can be very enlightening. We can see some of the difficulties they encounter in carrying out their various duties and tasks as well as the pleasantries that derive from what they do. To most of us who are on the road in our cars, truckers oftentimes seem inconsiderate and sometimes we even regard them as down right jerks. For example, when we are sitting at a traffic light and a truck is turning into the oncoming traffic lane from the cross street, where we happen to be sitting as they turn into our lane first seemingly oblivious to that fact that we were there first! On occasion we are even forced to back up a bit and think or even mutter to ourselves, “What a jerk. Why don’t they stay in their own lane?” What doesn’t occur to us is that they are turning a 65’ vehicle in which the rear wheels do not follow the same path as drive wheels of the truck and it takes much more room to make the turn than our Plymouth Vibe. Having been on the other side of that turn, Joy and I now have a respect for what these men and women do on a daily basis to get goods to our stores and provide deliveries to our homes, places of business.
Human nature being what it is some truckers truly are jerks but I am persuaded that for the most past truckers are far more conscious of their surroundings than most drivers. That is because they are handling vehicles that might weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and takes a considerable amount of space to stop (a little over a football field at 55 mph). What does this have to do with apologetics and discernment? A great deal actually.
Jesus often used commonly understood things to communicate spiritual truths in tangible ways to His listeners. Paul and the other apostles did a similar thing. Spiritual truths by their very nature are not tangible things and finding ways to communicate them come to a better understanding by comparing and contrasting is very important to help the listener understand. I am always looking for other ways to communicate biblical truth and have stumbled on to something to help explain the task of pastors and elders and how the average believer, by applying these things, will be spiritually safer. They are really summed up in three words. Hazard, conflict and emergency. As we went over these three words and how they might progress from one to the next in trucking class I thought a lot about Acts 20:28-30 and saw a new way to explain some things.
While driving we are instructed to look about 12-15 seconds down the road (about ¼ mile) for a hazard. At first I thought this meant something like a large pot hole, broken down vehicle, etc. Although these might be included the term “hazard” is more broadly encompassing. “Hazards” are anything or anyone that could potentially put themselves or you or both in harm’s way. A bicyclist riding on the side of the road, a mother in her car with her children on the way to the store, a salesman pulling up to an intersection, a group of teenagers coming from behind in the lane to your right. In addition those outside hazards are hazards related to the truck. Are the air brakes working properly, are the tires too hot and have the potential to start on fire, is everything inside the cab secured so as not to fall and cause a momentary potentially disastrous distraction. Note that none of these are necessarily or intentionally harmful but are regarded as hazards due to what can happen next.
The hazard becomes a conflict when the bicyclist isn’t paying attention and moves from the shoulder into the lane, the mother turn’s momentarily to correct a child and swerves into the oncoming traffic lane, the salesman is occupied on the cell phone and runs the traffic light, the group of teenagers speeds up to pass on the right trying to get ahead of the truck before the lane ends and sneak into the trucks blind spot. All of these people are going about their lives fairly oblivious to the terrifying dangers that are around them at any given time on the road but a good trucker is aware and was anticipating many of these eventualities when they were hazards. Now that they are conflicts evasive action must be taken to prevent it from becoming an emergency.
This moves from conflict to emergency when the trucker has no viable options. He can’t move to the right to avoid the mother that is now in his lane because the teenagers on his right are passing and so prevent this maneuver. The results are potentially deadly.
If the Apostle Paul were speaking the words of Acts 20:28-30 to pastors today as truckers he might tell them to be alert for hazards in order to protect the cargo they have been entrusted with. The hazards are carried by all sorts of people outside the church. Some with evil motives who are teaching false things. Many who do not have evil motives but are not careful and begin believing false things which in turn are brought in to the church. Watch for the hazards inside the church which result from these false teachers and teachings. This is probably more abundant today than at other times in history due to television, radio and the Internet.
Sometimes the hazard which develops in to a conflict is a well known leader who was publicly solid in their faith but wandered or even ran from the faith in their behavior. We saw that this week as Christian recording artist Ray Boltz shocks Christian community with homosexuality admission. Giving in to his sinful desires trumps living the biblical life. The abundance of false teachings is staggering Evangelical leaders giving in to their fleshly desires make the task of the pastor and elders that much more difficult. If they are on the look out for the hazards they will be able to aware when one is turning in to a conflict.
I had a call from a pastor last week where a hazard turned in to a conflict. One of the families in his church came to him with a question about works and salvation. He was a little surprised and then discovered that they have been involved with Gwen Shamblin and Weigh Down Workshop/Remnant Fellowship. By talking he and I were able to address this at the “conflict” stage before it progressed to the “emergency” stage.
The pastor and elders are to be the protectors of what has been entrusted to them. They are supposed to be trained to see the hazards and be prepared to address them if any of them turn in to conflicts and before they become emergencies. The result of such an emergency could be a shipwrecked faith (1 Timothy 1:19).