Missing the Mark

Stage actors and opera singers must do more than deliver their lines convincingly and artfully. They must deliver them from the right places on the stage. Otherwise they might as well just be on the radio!  To have stood in the wrong spot or faced the wrong direction when acting (or “singing while acting” as is done in the opera) is to “miss the mark”. 

Across my several decades I’ve been comforted by preachers who have reminded me that I haven’t done something terrible when I’ve sinned, I’ve merely failed to hit the bull’s eye on the target. But then, from the other side, I’ve been terrorized by preachers who have held up the ‘bull’s eye’ metaphor and have insisted that I hit that mark on every try, and that doing anything less is SIN! (and damnable sin at that).

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When translating it into Chinese centuries ago, the word chosen to express the Biblical concept of sin, unfortunately, was the same one used in Chinese to denote crime punishable by law.  Once in 1978 a young man asked me about some enthusiastic Christians he saw at a bus station handing out tracts. They wore vests upon which it was written, “I used to be a sinner, but Jesus has washed me clean,” (or something to that effect). As he had not yet been convicted of any crime or imprisoned, he wondered why he should accept any tract they were passing or follow in any way they would want him to go.

Having missed the mark so regularly in life, and all too often when delivering what I thought was a sermon, I’ve little leg upon which to stand when critiquing another person or preacher. But I was at an event last week when what I and others mostly needed was comfort, and we got an artful discourse about salvation instead. We were instructed, invited, entertained, educated and informed. Facts, metaphors and structures were laid before us. The style of the orator was spot-on. But the mark was missed. 

I’m sure I’ve done worse. And that, in itself, is little comfort. 

David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.