I was a teenager, attending one of the annual youth conventions that my denomination held. The speaker for that evening told us a story:
A truck driver is driving along the highway at night, on his way to deliver his next load, when suddenly he sees a light in the distance. A second later, a blinding flare smashes into his windshield. The driver slams the brakes and jumps out of the cab to find the person responsible. He is furious. He runs to the guy with the flare gun and starts yelling at him. "What are you doing? I ought to beat you to a pulp." The guy responds that the bridge ahead has collapsed and the flare gun was his only way to keep the truck driver from driving into the ravine.
"This is you," the speaker informed me and my friends. "The bridge is out, and the people around you are barreling down the road of life, headed for a crash. What will you do to protect them from that fate? Is any action too extreme to save their souls from destruction?"
I took the message to heart. I carried my Bible to school every day. I highlighted the verses of the path of salvation in it, and marked each passage with the page number of the next step. I practiced walking through those steps in case I had the opportunity to share the gospel with my peers. I took the occasional barb from my classmates, but it was worth it. Like the truck driver, they didn't yet understand that I was saving them.
It took me two decades to realize this was a false analogy. In actuality I had been walking along the road when someone burst from the woods and handed me a flare gun. "The bridge is out ahead!" he shouted at me. "You have to prevent people from passing this point. Use this flare gun to stop them."
I dutifully began firing at oncoming traffic. Most of the vehicles sped by. A few slowed down to see what was going on, but they eventually kept going. I was a bit too excited to hear what they were saying, but I assumed it was something like "I really want to drive off a cliff and die."
Several hours into the night, when the traffic had slowed down, I began to notice certain facts that had escaped me at first. I hadn't seen a single emergency vehicle headed for the scene of the bridge collapse. Surely someone must have reported it by now. Even more troubling, I would occasionally see cars coming from the other direction. Unable to contain my curiosity, I began walking down the road. Somewhere on my trek I dropped the flare gun along the side of the road. I've been walking for an hour now and haven't seen any sign of a bridge.
To those of you who took a flare to the windshield, I'm very sorry. I was just doing what I was told I was supposed to do. To the guy who handed me a flare gun, please stop. To those of you still holding flare guns, I'm sorry it makes you feel bad that I dropped mine. Please don't shoot me with your flare gun. We can just talk. To all of you heading down the road, good luck. So far it looks just fine.