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The Sin Fable

(a Steve Orr scripture reflection)


A few years ago, I wrote this short fable inspired by this week’s scripture from 1st John. It’s based on the idea that, in archery, the word “sin” means to “fall short” of the target’s bullseye.


Two Archers Meet in a Wood


An archer, dressed in brown, enters a vast Wood from the east. Another archer, dressed in green, enters The Wood from the west. The brown archer strides purposefully. He clearly has a destination in mind. The green archer ambles a bit, taking in the beauty of The Wood. 


Each moves on a path that brings him to the center of The Wood. At last, they see each other and stop. For a few seconds, each just looks at the other. 


Finally, the brown archer says, "Hello friend. I see you, too, have come to use the King's archery range."


The green archer appears surprised, looks about, and, for the first time, takes notice of the targets off to the north. The brown archer misses this reaction, already setting up his gear for the shoot. 


The green archer says, "So, this is the King's range?"


"Oh, yes!" replies the brown archer. "Do you not know? The King has set aside the whole of His Wood for the pleasure of His subjects. And he encourages us to use the range to improve our targeting."


The brown archer then nocks his first arrow, draws back, eyes the target, and lets fly. The arrow flies swiftly across the vast clearing toward one of the targets. At first, the arrow is on course, but at the very last, it appears to lose speed. When it finally strikes the target, the arrow rests well below the bullseye. 


"Sin!" cries the green archer, a bright grin splitting his face. He is suddenly awakened to the fun he might have here. 


Selecting an arrow from his quiver, the green archer quickly nocks it, draws deeply on the bow, and releases. In no time, a loud "THUNK" heralds the arrow's arrival across the clearing. But it’s not on the target. It isn't even in the hay bales backing the targets. The brown archer finally sees it, buried to the fletching in a hollow tree.


"Miss," says the brown archer. 


"At least it didn't fall short like yours!" crows the green archer. He grabs another arrow, sets it to string, and pulls even farther back before releasing. This arrow flies even faster than the first, slicing past the targets, over the bales, past the nearby trees, and off into the forest. No sound of its landing is heard.


The brown archer watches, frozen, as the green archer lofts a third arrow high and to the left; a fourth high and to the right; then, turns and sends one through the woods behind them. Finally, shaken from his shock, the brown archer cries, "What are you doing? You're not even trying to hit the target!"


"Of course not," replies the green archer. "How boring! The fun is in not aiming for the target! I so enjoy the feel of flinging the arrows off at top speed, the flexing of my muscles, and that sense of power! I really don't want to fuss with all that aiming."


The brown archer has heard enough. "Don't you realize there are others in the King's Wood? Your wild arrows could easily hit someone, could maim or kill. We come here so we can practice our aim. This clearing is set up for just that exercise. That's why there are targets. Certainly, the King knows we will not always hit the bullseye. I tally many a sin because I am plagued with a weak pull; my arrow often falls short. But no one, not even the worst archer, comes here intending sin. And we never act in a way that might endanger others."


The green archer, not liking this lecture, is no longer enjoying himself. He speaks petulantly, "Well, you’re no fun." Gathering up his gear, he stalks away, continuing his original journey.


The brown archer watches the other bowman disappear to the east. He stands that way for a while, thinking of the wild abandon with which the other had launched his missiles, recalling when he, too, had been the thoughtless archer. Finally, he selects an arrow from his quiver, nocks it along the string, pulls deeply on the bow, eyes the target for a long while.


And then … lets fly.




"All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.


So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways." (1 John 3:4-8 The Message)


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