Friday, September 11, 2009

Sergeant Schultz, Professor

I think Sergeant Schultz’ approach to a sticky situation was often the best one—ignorance. While it’s not always easy for me, it is the best.

Have you ever seen the T.V. show, “Hogan’s Heroes”? Sergeant Schultz (John Banner) was the bumbling, yet funny soldier who could have made life miserable for the prisoners of war at Stalag 13. Instead, he would regularly turn his face away from some obvious violation, and, with a German-tinged accent, proclaim, “Nothing! I know NOTHING!”

Lately I’m reminded that taking that position is sometimes the best move for me to make. I don’t mean that I turn away from egregious sins or errors, whether mine or someone else’s. I mean that what my eyes tell me is often way less than is actually true, and that can easily lead me to the wrong course of action.

Sergeant Schultz’ manner was the one the apostle Paul seemed to take when told about the behavior of the Christians in the town of Corinth. They were plenty guilty of plenty of things, including drunkenness (1 Cor 11:21), sexual immorality and fornication (1 Cor 5:1f), of taking each other to court (1 Cor 1:10f), of cheating (1 Cor 6:8), of divorce (1 Cor 7), of being a divided church (1 Cor 1:10f), of stubbornly remaining infantile in their faith (1 Cor 3:1f) and worldly in their living (1 Cor 3:3), of arrogance (1 Cor 4:18) and more. To be faithful to God, you might think Paul’s approach to these pagan-acting Christians would be to lower the heavenly boom on them, and give them a good and righteous whack across their unrepentant backsides.

His first words to them?

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:3-8 NAS)

Why did Paul turn away from what he knew was true? He didn’t. He turned to what he knew was absolutely true, not just temporarily true. When Paul thought of the Corinthians he thought of them as they had become, not as they behaved. He lived by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), and that framed every view for Paul.

He knew that if the Corinthians were acting in ways contrary to who they had become it was because they had forgotten who they had become. Paul’s first duty was not to the correction of their behavior (“Stop that, you cruddy Corinthians!”), but to the awakening of their faith in God, who had made them sons. Knowing full-well their behavior, Paul looked away from it (“Nothing! I know NOTHING!”), and put what he knew was true of them into his mind. God chose them. God changed them. His approach came from there, and so did the correction that followed. But instead of first giving them restrictions, he gave them revival. Instead of conforming them to a proper look, he built them up in Christ.

The devil and his demons strategize that believers should identify themselves and others according to what they see—nothing more—while God and the angels work for them to believe they and others are what God says they are—nothing less. The battle for the Christian is over whether life is defined by what they see or by what they know. Battle lines drawn and faith hanging in the balance, are people defined by how they look, behave and perform, or are people what God says they are, even if they don’t look like it?

How we approach people will reveal where we’ve placed our faith, and it will determine our success. I’m not saying behavior is unimportant: I am saying that our way to behavior is vital.

I want to learn from Sergeant Schultz, an esteemed professor in the skill of turning away from what he saw, and I want to cling to what I know. That means I live by faith in God’s ability and plan. And for me, that’s the way to live.


  1. Anonymous8:03 PM

    "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
    1 Corinthians 2:2
    John T

  2. Anonymous8:04 PM

    Man, I loved this! Thanks so much for the practical reminder.
    Steve H

  3. Anonymous10:53 PM

    Terrific brother as usual. You are a blessing.
    Craig Snyder

  4. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Why is it I see more Christians than anyone else wrestling against flesh and blood. Maybe it's just my perception, but it sure seems prevalent in the church to do this, especially with politics. Good word, Ralph!
    David Borum

  5. Anonymous5:11 PM

    Great note, Ralph. Thanks!
    Sandy Raymer