Summary: August 1989: We need both defensive and offensive weapons in order to be effective Christians. In the end, a strong offense, making a difference in our world, is also the best defense.
With the opening of the Redskins season only a few days away, I really do need to get something straight, and I thought maybe I could get some help this morning. There is a rule of thumb, a maxim of football strategy, and I cannot figure out how it goes. I need some help.
Is it that the best offense is a good defense, or is it that the best defense is a good offense? I know it has to be one or the other of these two rules, but for the life of me I can I t figure it out.
Is it that the best offense is a good defense -- that the best way to win the game is to keep the other side all bottled up so that they can’t score? That makes some sense. Maybe that’s it -- the best offense is a good defense.
Or maybe it’s supposed to be that the best defense is a good offense -- that you win the game by staying in charge, by running up the score, by keeping the other team too busy trying to contain you, so that they don’t have time to score. That makes sense too.
So can I get some help? How many of you think the rule is, "The best offense is a good defense?"
All right, now how many of you think it is the other way around, "The best defense is a good offense"?
And how many of you thought you knew which way it was until I asked the question?
Well, if we can’t get it clear, maybe that speaks about a whole lot more than football.
He sat in his prison cell, trying to do from confinement what he had done while free. He felt the chains of prison deeply, not only as restraints on his arms and legs, but more as restraints on his fighting spirit. He had been so active, so tireless. He had the kind of personality which, when it takes on a task, does not give up easily. Even when he was wrong, he went at it with a fury. And when he was right and knew he was right, no man could match his boundless energy, his blazing zeal, and his deathless courage.
And so it was hard, painfully hard, to sit in a prison cell and think about all that needed to happen, all the things he had started, but which now needed more attention, all the disasters that might fall on the enterprises he had begun. How hard to sit idly by and be constrained when there is so much to do and so much at stake!
And so he did what he could, pitifully limited though it might seem. He took pen in hand and began to write: letters of instruction, words of encouragement, admonitions, counsel, ideas. If he could not be present with the work he had started, at least he could try to instruct others how to proceed. If he could not direct the task in person, at least he could mail out blueprints for others to follow.
But what to say and how to say it? Where were the words to communicate, where were the images to speak what needed to be spoken? He looked up from the tiny desk the warden had provided, peered across the room at the guard, and put down what he saw. It became a manual of arms for those he wanted to instruct:
Which is it now? Offense gives you defense or defense gives you offense? One answer is: it’s both. It’s both.
Listen again: Take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand … to withstand … that’s defense … to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand … stand … that’s offense.
The great Apostle Paul, in a Roman prison, saw in the uniform of his guard soldier a picture of what we as Christians are going to need in order to be what God has called us to be in the world. And he saw both defense and offense.
Interlocking, interdependent, like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one with the other.
Paul would say to us, first, you do need to have that good defense. The best offense is a good defense. You need to know that you are engaged in a battle that is more than what it seems on the surface. You are engaged in a battle with the forces of evil, with the cunning of the evil one. We are dealing, says Paul, not with mere flesh and blood, but with the wily strategies of evil, and you are no match for that by yourself.
So put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand.