Jesus Christ and the SEC

But we are more likely, most of the time, to think in a defensive mode. In a football conference like the SEC, where defense is prioritized, teams prepare for the powerful defenses they will meet. Scores are low; someone wins, but it is a titanic struggle to put points on the board. Mentally, the focus of preparation is on getting past the defense, a looming obstacle that blocks the horizon.

The truth, however, is that the defense is inherently limited. Clausewitz himself asserted that it is not possible to win—in a decisive manner that achieves a war leader's ultimate political objective—without the offense. In football conferences where offense is prioritized, the focus of game preparation is on either exercising the offense or anticipating it. Scores are much higher in these conferences. Their defenses are not as powerful as the best defenses in the SEC, but that is not because they couldn't possibly have such defenses; it is because, in comparison with the SEC, they don't prioritize the defense.

The existence of football conferences with different emphases—offense versus defense --illustrates beautifully that embracing one or the other is a choice. Emphasizing defense is not a mindset dictated by the overwhelming strength of "defense." A defensive posture comes from prior assumptions: about the necessity to defend rather than the option to transcend, or the superior importance of preparing for obstacles and outthinking the opposition over pursuing an objective with initiative and a positive strategy. Above all, the defensive posture comes from an attitude of prevention or preservation as opposed to one of accomplishment or transformation.

It shouldn't be difficult for Christians to identify which mindset Jesus would have. When speaking to Peter about the church, he announced that the defense mounted by sin and evil would fail: the gates of hell, he said, would not prevail against the church (Mt. 16:18). Gates are a wholly defensive measure. They don't attack. Jesus spoke here not of the church coming under attack, but of hell doing so—and losing the battle.

Defense may be the stronger form of war, but winning offenses do come along, in life as in football. The nature of offense is to transform, and to take from the defense the power to limit or define what is possible. College football teams learn each weekend in the fall that not every offense is effective in this role. But that doesn't mean that no offense can be. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest winning offense ever.

1/16/2012 5:00:00 AM