CLERGY CORNER: Suspension of disbelief

Posted on 10 March 2016 by LeslieM

The flight deck door flung open. A crazed man towered in the entryway wielding a knife at the throat of a helpless flight attendant. Training took over as I swung around while unholstering my service weapon, took aim and stopped the threat.

Good shots,” declared my firearms instructor. “Care to know where you hit?”

I lowered my weapon. It had the same look and feel as a real firearm only, instead of using live rounds, the pistol was equipped with a muzzle-mounted laser which, upon trigger pull, sends an invisible pulse of light from the barrel to the target. A large computer simulation screen, located behind the mock flight deck, detected each of my shots with realistic ballistic accuracy. Everything about the scenario felt real; but, it was only training; it was pretend.

Honestly, I had no recollection of how many shots I fired before pausing to reassess the threat. I was stupefied that, while only a simulation experience, my brain had jettisoned the memory of the number of trigger pulls. I was at the mercy of my training — rote. Much to my satisfaction, having been coached by some of the best federal firearms instructors in the nation, I learned the only casualty was the simulated perp. I had reacted as desired, going through the motions that I’d been taught.

To this day, the power of pretend continues to amaze me. It’s probably why I love movies. The motion picture industry has long leveraged the concept of “suspension of disbelief” allowing the viewer to become immersed in stories absent of reality. They know it’s pretend; but, in the moment, like my simulation experience, it’s real.

Yet, a paradox exists. While pretend is necessary, it has crept into our faith. God, speaking to the people of Judah in Isaiah 29:13, said, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” In short: Going through the motions — pretending.

While we cerebrally understand that true worship permeates from our full dependency on God, we give “lip service” when we pretend to have it all together, that we are healthy apart from Christ. In Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, author John Piper says, “The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won’t enlist you in his service unless you are healthy and Jesus won’t enlist you unless you are sick.” Mark 2:17 affirms this when Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

My plea: Follow the instruction of Psalm 123:2 in that we “keep looking to the Lord our God for His mercy.” Christ compared the church to a hospital for good reason. If you break your leg, you don’t pretend you are fine. Conversely, while in a hospital with, let’s say, a nail through your hand, you don’t complete the paperwork as if all is well.

Let us stop pretending, no matter how real it feels, and return to the true heart of worship, with arms raised accepting His power and grace, our need of Him. In Mathew 11:28-30, Christ says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” We can remove the burden of pretending — as if we’d ever be able to measure up — with our soul finding rest in the assurance of salvation, believing that our righteousness is freely given because of the real sacrifice of our savior: Jesus.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain, and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments, he can be reached at

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