Fighter Pilots and the Love of a Clanging Symbol
An OCF article notes the likely common experience of Eric Creekmore, a former US Marine Major and F/A-18 Hornet pilot, as he tried to ‘do the Christian thing’ and point out a fellow pilot’s sin to him:
A squadron buddy in the process of getting a divorce had just finished telling me of a weekend with his new girlfriend. Technically, he was still married — the papers weren’t yet signed. Trying to be the “good” Christian, I saw this as my opportunity to point out his transgression. After a brief treatise on fidelity and marriage, I punctuated my comments by calling him, “Mr. Immorality.” That would make clear the error of his ways and with any luck I would soon be leading him in the sinner’s prayer.
I eased back in my office chair with a sense of pride at my work for the cause of Christ. Looking for additional opportunities to “help,” I asked why he was getting a divorce in the first place…
It turns out the situation wasn’t quite as Creekmore imagined, and his arrogant self-righteousness was soon replaced with sorrow. His attitude, however, is not uncommon among Christians — especially among the Type A, military-pilot types who are self-assured, assertive, and happy to help everyone else know how much they’re wrong:
I wanted to show I was morally superior—I knew right from wrong while he didn’t. He was still married and should not be dating.
But I had missed the heart of the issue. What kind of opportunities would I have had to listen or to share Christ with him had I first discovered the betrayal he was facing?
Creekmore is right. Man is fallen, and all have sinned — which means pointing out another’s sin is like going after the “low hanging fruit.” It might be “easy,” and it might technically be correct, but tempering the conversation with a bit of patience and love might benefit the relationship — upon which can be built the opportunity for Christ.
Creekmore concludes with
There are times when we need to stand up for the faith and proclaim the message of the Gospel in a clear and direct fashion. But there are also times when we need to sit back and carefully listen to what’s being said before launching into our critique of another’s life.
We always need to know what’s going on before saying anything, nevermind making a “critique of another’s life,” and that’s where the relationship issue comes in again. It’s easy to point and laugh from afar; it’s much harder to meet someone where they are, understand them, and be able to speak to them in love. That’s why Christians need to be “in” the fighter pilot world — so they can have those relationships and be a witness for Christ in that world — not just be a critical outside observer.
Speaking the truth in love remains one of the greatest challenges of a Christian’s life in this modern social age — especially for those with the attitudes and personalities typical of a fighter pilot, where “love” might mean you get berated in the debrief for 15 minutes instead of 30. It’s worth noting, too, that when Jesus told the accused woman to “go and leave your life of sin,” it was in love, but it was also clearly pointing out — and commanding in no uncertain terms — the truth of her sin and her life. Love does not mean ignoring or implying acceptance of continuation in sin.
Living a life for Christ in this present world is challenging. If you ever get it all figured out, let everybody else know…