FIRST-PERSON: New rifle & scope, yet missing the mark

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- A buddy and I headed to the gun range the other day so I could show off my new rifle. I'd spent quite enough money on the rifle and scope, so I decided to save a few bucks by mounting the scope while sitting at the kitchen table instead of paying a professional to do the work.

We warmed up with my buddy's rifle, a tried-and-true beauty built from a 77-year-old German Mauser. He's a far better marksman than I am, but I was hitting the target within 2 inches of my point-of-aim at 100 yards, which isn't terrible for me on an unfamiliar rifle.

Then we tried my new American-made Remington, guaranteed to be tack-driving accurate right out of the box.

My first shots were 5-ish inches from hitting my mark. I dialed in my scope to what should yield dead-on results, concentrated on my breathing and fired another couple of rounds. My buddy peered through the spotting scope to tell me what I knew were going to be stellar marks.

Now, they were 12 inches from the bull's-eye -- what's worse, they were 12 inches from the bull's-eye on the target to the left of where I'd been aiming. My buddy gave it a try and hit a grouping about 8 inches from the mark -- in the opposite direction.

I was embarrassed by my performance, disappointed in the sorry state of American manufacturing and upset that the local gun store might sell me defective ammo.

As we packed everything up to go home, I grumpily stuffed the rifle into its case and heard a slight rattle. After close inspection, the screws holding the scope to its base on the rifle were loose. With each shot we took, the recoil bounced the scope around. No scope will ever find the same spot twice without a rock-solid foundation.

It was the rookie-est of rookie mistakes. In contrast, my buddy's old rifle was putting multiple .308 bullets in the same hole in part because it had such firm base.

My mind immediately went to Matthew 7 and the parable of two men who built their homes on different foundations: "Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn't collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn't act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!"

The meaning here is clear: Unless our life is constructed around and upon the firm foundation of Christ, it cannot stand the test of time and all will be washed away. Things might look good on the surface, but a great collapse is inevitable.

I have a very nice scope and a precision rifle, but my failure to have a professional properly and firmly mount the scope to its base had caused me to wildly miss the target. I had "heard these words" but didn't act on them. Instead, I relied on the shifting sands of my own cleverness and, wow, was my collapse great!

When we do things our own way, missing the mark is not just easy, it's guaranteed. I can blame circumstances (or -- ahem -- defective ammo) all I want, but the reality is that that I'm responsible for having a firm base, whether it's hitting the bull's-eye on the range or walking daily in Christ and turning my back on sin. After all, the most common Greek word for "sin" in the New Testament is "hamartia." It's literal meaning? "Missing the mark."

Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
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