Don't Be Like Cortes, Be Like Christ


In a recent post on The Gospel Coalition Blog titled,  FactChecker: Burning Your Ships for Jesus, (1) the author explains how "pastors, writers and musicians" mistakenly use an erroneous story about Cortes burning his ships, to illustrate what commitment to Christ should look like (i.e. we should be as sold out to Jesus as Cortes was to his mission, or something like that). The author goes on to say that while "it's a great message..." that "every Christian should strive to emulate," the historical details of the story are not quite accurate.

Though Cortes did have his men render most of the ships unseaworthy, his actions were not motivated out of commitment to the mission, but out of fear his men would try to escape if their situation became difficult. Considering Cortes kept one ship afloat, in part, so that he and the other high-ranking men could save their own lives if their circumstances ever did turn really dangerous, I'd say his fears were more than reasonable. (2)



Be that as it may, the author concludes this post saying, "So let's use the story of Cortes and his ships to illustrate the truth of the radical commitment Christ calls us to. But let us do it with the story as it truly was."

Now, let me start by making two things quite clear. First, I respect for The Gospel Coalition and know some of its founders personally. Though I've never attended any of their conferences, I generally like the resources they produce and refer to them often as experts in their field. In fact, our church is even listed in their registry.

Secondly, greatly I appreciate the author's intent to set the historical record straight so pastors (and others) do not inadvertently speak falsely. Consequently, I don't mean any disrespect with what I'm about to say. However, the conclusion of this post is hogwash, at least, in part.

Though I agree that pastors and others can and should continue using the story of Cortes' ships in their messages, I disagree that they should do so "to illustrate the truth of the radical commitment Christ calls us to." After all, it seems to me that the only person Cortes was radically committed to, was himself.

No where in scripture to I see Jesus calling us to such hypocrisy that sets one standard others—you must stay here, come hell or high water— and another standard for ourselves—if things get really bad, I'll leave. No where in scripture do I see Jesus telling us to keep our options open just in case following him gets too difficult, or doesn't work out for some other reason.

Rather, Jesus calls us to exemplify behavior that is totally opposite of Cortes, and indeed, of any other person we may look to, other than himself. By all means, use Cortes' actions, as an illustration, but not as an example of what Jesus calls us to do. Use Cortes' actions, as an illustration, of the type of selfishness and hypocrisy Jesus calls his followers to reject.




  1. (Posted: 13 Mar 2013 03:05 AM PDT)
  2. Resources