Stay On Course

Last week the topic was “Hold the Line.” The line being the Gospel and if we deviate above or below the line, we distort the truth of the Gospel message. We can’t walk that line in our own power, we can only stay on the line when relying solely on God’s power.

The line is razor thin. The smallest move off the line can lead us away from the Truth. It reminded me of something that Jesse Thomas has shared with us in some of our meetings and it involves Korean Airlines Flight 007(KAL 007) in 1983.

For those of you old enough to remember the early 80’s, it was the height of the Cold War between the US and Russia. President Reagan called them the “Evil Empire.” The wall was still up separating East and West Berlin, everybody had big hair and we lived daily with the fear of possible nuclear annihilation.

On September 1, 1983, KAL 007 was in route from New York City to Seoul, South Korea with 269 passengers on board. It made a stop in Anchorage, Alaska on its last leg home. On its journey south it strayed from its original and intended course leading it over the Kamchatka Peninsula, which is Russian airspace, and was shot down by a Soviet jet over the Sea of Japan.

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”  Hebrews 2:1 (NIV).

There are many theories of what happened, after all it was the Cold War and it doesn’t take much for a good conspiracy theory to hatch. But there seems to be at least one credible theory as to what caused this disaster.

It is theorized that before leaving Anchorage, there was a 10 degree longitude error entered into the Inertial Navigation System (INS). That small 10 degree error was never caught by any of the other flight crew. Interestingly, if it had been the latitude entry, it would have set off error warnings. As the flight left Anchorage, they began their journey to Seoul further and further off course as they flew south and into a deadly encounter with a Russian missile.

There were at least three things that should or could have tipped the flight crew to their incorrect course.

The first was problems communicating with ground control. Flight 007 had to relay information to ground control through another Korean Airlines flight, KAL 015, which was 15 minutes behind but on the correct course to Seoul. Flying off course had caused the problem with communicating with ground control but it was ignored as a communication error.

Secondly, since KAL 007 was communicating through KAL 015, it went unnoticed that 007 was reporting headwinds while 015 was reporting tailwinds. If they were on the same course, both flights would have experienced tailwinds. It was also ignored and chalked up to the inclement weather.

Finally, if the pilots of 007 had their weather radars, located at their knees, programmed to land mapping, they should have noticed that they were flying over land, specifically the Kamchatka Peninsula.  This would have alerted them to being off course and entering Russian airspace. However, the radar was not set on land mapping, proving to be useless in detecting the error of their flight path.

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This has a direct application for us when it comes to “Hold the Line.” One small error, one little deviation from the path of truth can lead us away from the Gospel and into danger. We are so good at rationalizing things. We think it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just a little nudity, it’s just one more drink, it’s just another (golfing, hunting, fishing, etc.) trip with the guys and before we know it we can’t even see the Gospel line we claimed we wanted to walk.

Then there are the warning signs we should have paid attention to, just like the crew of KAL 007. It may not even be us, it may be one of our brothers in Christ, but it’s none of our business after all and we sure don’t want to be accused of judging. God forbid we help another brother headed off course.

When we find out something has happened to that brother, we just shake our heads and say “Oh well.” Or do we?

I can tell you from personal experience that when “friends” come up to you and say: “I knew what was going on but I didn’t want to get involved” or “I was afraid to say anything, afraid it would hurt your feelings.” Only then to be followed by “Love you, let me know if I can do anything for you.” That my friends is not love and it’s definitely not a friend, maybe an acquaintance but not a true friend.

What little course alterations are you making? What little deviation from the Gospel line is acceptable in your life? We know when we stray off course but convince ourselves that its just a small move away. No big deal. At 1 mile KAL 007 wasn’t that far off the intended course, it would have been so easy to correct. At a thousand miles, it’s a different story and so far off course we may not even recognize where we are.

If you see a brother off course do you love him enough to talk to him or do you love him so much, you’ll let him keep flying off course?

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”  Proverbs 24: 11 & 12 (NIV).

Living the razor thin line of the Gospel can be a day by day, moment by moment struggle. The danger I face may be different from the dangers you face but its danger we face none the less. The only way to walk that line is in the power of Christ and with the love and support of other followers of Christ.

Hold the line, love each other and run to the Cross!
Hugh

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