Magic Bullets

I’m not sure how and when it happened, but we somehow imported into modern terminology an idea from German folklore, namely the mythical “magic bullet.”

A magic bullet is one which, since it is enchanted, always hits its target. So a magic bullet is a code word for a perfect solution with no unpleasant side effects or unintended consequences.

Needless to say, there are no magic bullets, since all depends upon the skill of the marksman. And that is the case in the spiritual realm as well. There are no easy answers for any of life’s most important questions, and the degree to which we can diagnose and “kill” the problems in our lives depends largely upon our skill, or more precisely, our wisdom.

Problems, by their very definition, are “sticky,” multi-faceted, and complicated by our fallenness. For example, think of how difficult it often is to separate a physically abused woman from her unrepentant, abusive significant other. We can counsel, encourage, and surround her with love, but there is no “magic bullet” that solves the problem and sets things right. The pattern of abuse and the accompanying codependent behavior are so deeply ingrained that they stubbornly resist treatment or therapy of any kind.

Or finances. We can teach people biblical principles of stewardship, but they may be so enslaved to the pattern of indebtedness and covetousness that they can not escape by the incantation of a simple formula. No magic bullet can displace the fears, insecurities, or addictions that drive these behaviors.

Or anger. We know from experience that merely telling someone not to be so angry, or explaining the damaging effects of anger never really set the prisoner free. There is no magic bullet that can replace perennial anger with joy and peace.

And so it goes. But what are we left with, if there are no magic bullets? There is wisdom which comes with God’s Word and Spirit and Church. One of the biggest hurdles we face, however, is our impatience. We want there to be a magic bullet of prayer, a miracle, a quick turn around in circumstances, and often we are unwilling just to do what we can and then wait for God to work.

In short, we forget that discipleship, following Jesus, is a journey, not a destination, and that journeying takes time, energy, and resources. Traveling is stressful and makes us tired. But when we realize that the problems in life are what keep us close to Jesus, we are a lot more content, and much less likely to look for that magic bullet.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58

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