The Red Baron
“Too long, too far, and too low.” Those words have stuck with me ever since I read them in a story about Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”).
The day was April 21, 1918. Richthofen led his flight of triplanes to search for British observation aircraft. An engagement ensued between a flight of Sopwith Camels led by Canadian Royal Air Force pilot Capt. Arthur Roy Brown. Browns friend Lt. Wilfred May was a rookie on his first offensive patrol. May had been ordered to keep out of combat, but couldnt resist. He jammed his guns and, defenseless, headed away from the battle. Richthofen spotted the lone plane and chose it for kill number 81. Brown observed the scene below him and dove to help his fellow airman, knowing that May was no match for Richthofen. Read what happens next, “It was then, with Brown closing from behind, that Richthofen, usually a meticulous and disciplined fighter pilot, made a mistake and broke one of his own rules by following May too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory. Two miles behind the Allied lines, as Brown caught up with Richthofen and fired, the chase passed over the machine-gun nests of the Australian Field Artillery.” The debate continues over who fired the fatal shot that passed through Richthofens torso. Ultimately it doesnt matter--whether hit from the air or the ground, The Red Baron was mortally wounded.
Richthofen was good. Probably over-confident. But he “broke one of his own rules.” Maybe in his mind was just stretching the rule a bit. Or he was distracted by something that appeared too good to be true. Whatever the case, he compromised his own standards, which led to his demise. For the Red Baron, the temptation of number 81 was too much.
The temptation always exists in ministry to focus on wrong things, forget where you are, and stretch, or compromise, our own rules. It is easy to be distracted by “the numbers” or something else. There are always new gimmicks that will try to lure us away from our first love. You are a target of the enemy. Dont lose your primary focus. Keep the main thing the main thing. “Fix your thoughts on Jesus” (Heb. 3:1, NIV).