Astronaut and pilot Frank Borman touched on a number of truths with his wryly worded comment. In everyday life, for those of us who may not be pilots, it is better to use the knowledge and experience we have gained to avoid difficult situations rather than having to use “emergency” techniques and tactics to extricate ourselves from them (Proverbs 22:3). In this sense, Colonel Borman’s words are just as true for us as Christians metaphorically “flying” through the life we are given as they are regarding actual physical flight.
His comment also suggests another point that we can relate to. The successful pilot would have neither superior judgment nor superior skill if it were not for training – learning the laws of aerodynamics and how to fly by them. As Christians we are given guidance in the word of God on how to live, and this training is what enables us to utilize both judgment and skill in navigating the potential problems of life. Sadly, however, many Christians come in contact with and accept an attitude that treats many of the principles of living given in the Bible as laws that are outdated, irrelevant or no longer in force.
Fortunately, flight schools do not teach their students that the laws of aerodynamics are outdated, irrelevant or done away; yet many Christians feel they can still be “good” people without paying attention to biblical commands. Radio personality and author Dennis Prager has a good take on this: “Telling people to be good without giving them specific directions on how to be good is as useless as telling a person, ‘Be a good pilot,’ without giving the person flying lessons” (The Rational Bible: Exodus, p. 222).
Almost two thousand years ago, the apostle John touched on this truth (and the one verbalized by Colonel Borman) when he wrote: “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23). John makes it clear in these words that we do need commands, laws, and principles to guide us in life and that the commands God gives us enable our right belief (“superior judgment”) and right behavior (“superior skill”).
The truth is, we do need to follow commands and laws – not just be “nice people” – if we are to be trained in righteousness. Paul alludes to this fact in his famous instruction to Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is only through seeing the right way to do things as outlined in the principles of God’s word that we can be rebuked, corrected, and properly trained. As Paul wrote, the Christian’s training comes through use of the word of God – which we might well say functions as a “life simulator” in the same way a pilot is trained by use of a flight simulator.
If we attempt to disregard the principles and commands the Bible holds, we lose the opportunity to learn superior judgment and skill that can protect us from unwanted consequences in life. This is not an attitude of “seeking law rather than seeking love,” as the apostle John made clear when he wrote: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).