I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say that as a police officer. Law enforcement officers are tasked with enforcing laws and responding to crimes that span the gamut from violent felonies to simple infractions. The first thing you learn as a young officer is to distinguish one from the other. Felonious behavior requires us to respond immediately and offers us fewer options for how we may respond. Lesser misdemeanors take a “backseat” to these kinds of crimes, and infractions (like minor traffic violations) are prioritized to the bottom of our list. In fact, officers have a great deal of discretion in how they respond to infractions that are committed in their presence. Sometimes, officers simply warn violators and continue on their way.
All of us, as Christian Case Makers, have to make decisions about what is a “felony in progress” and what is not. There will be some things demand our attention immediately and some things that are far less urgent. It’s all a matter of priority. This weekend I have been in the Vancouver area, giving six talks (so far) since Friday night; I’ve got another event this evening. Andy Steiger of Apologetics Canada has been helping me to prioritize my days, as we share the evidence related to the reliability of the New Testament. We’ve been busy. Last night, as we finished the final event of the day at around 11:00pm, I realized that it was Sunday and I’d missed all the NFL playoff action. It completely slipped my mind. When you’re focused on the urgency of your mission, it’s easy to drive by other things that also matter to you. I was bummed at first, but happy to be a part of God’s work in the Vancouver area.
There’s a benefit and danger in focusing on the “felonies” that seem to be occurring in our world. On the upside, there are times when this focus helps us to accomplish great things. I can’t address every question that’s asked of me, even though there are many important issues to be addressed in our culture. God has given us the Church so we can carry the load together. Some people are better shaped to respond to certain kinds of “felonies” than I am as a homicide detective. I’ve learned to stay in my lane and use the gifts and experience that God has given me. I try to be faithful, keep my head down, get to the call and do what I’ve been trained to do. Yes, I may drive by a number of other important misdemeanors and infractions along the way, but I do my best to establish the priorities and channel my time and energy accordingly.
But there are also dangers that face us as we prioritize in this way. Have we truly identified what’s important? Have we underestimated the things we’ve chosen to drive by? Are we neglecting something we ought to be addressing? There were definitely times when I thought some ministry or apologetics “felony” required me to drive by things that I should have seen as important; sometimes I even drove by my own family en-route to a call.
All of us, as Christian Case Makers, have to make important decisions about what is a felony and what is not. What pressing issues in our fallen, lost world need to be addressed immediately? What issues must we force ourselves to drive by? We’re in a world that desperately needs truth. I’ve decided, in this second half of life, to join God in what He is doing in the world around me. I spent 35 years ignoring him as I responded to felonies of my own choosing. As God changes the hearts of the children He is calling, I want to be used as the means through which God’s reveals His truth and the evidence He’s given us. I know He doesn’t need me; I just want to do something to show how much I appreciate what He did for me. I want to be a good “first responder”; I want to focus on what’s important to God. Get in the car with me and let’s respond to the next call together.
J. Warner Wallace is the author of Cold Case Christianity