Originally written August, 2014.
In many ways, the game of BANG! is a great example of what the Bible teaches about the world. The Bible gives four major classifications that apply to all the people in the world and each of them is based on each individual’s relationship with God Himself through the work of Christ. First, the Bible makes it clear that there are those who do not have a relationship with God’s Son are unsaved and perishing (Romans 3:23; John 1:4 & 1:9-13). These are those who are still of the world. Second, there are those who are, in reality, not saved and are still of the world, but think they are saved. They are the counterfeit unsaved as they are acting as though they are of the faith but, often due to self-deception, are not truly trusting Christ alone for their salvation (1 John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 5:11). As the parable of the seeds makes clear, there will be some who will hear and respond with great joy and be seemingly saved, but will not stand either the chocking effects of the world or the heat of persecution. The third and fourth group mentioned in the Bible are really two subsets of the same group. This group is made up of those who are opposed to those of the world and are trusting in the saving work of Christ for their salvation. Within this group of those who are saved, the first group of those who are saved are carnal Christians who are indeed saved and yet are living in the flesh and living for the things this world can give them rather than for the riches and rewards that we are promised in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:11). Whether it is due to sin or simply a lack of reliance on God (which is also sin), these carnal believers have chosen, maybe for a second or maybe for weeks, the riches of the world over Christ. The second group of those who are saved are spiritual Christians who are saved and are able to live with a focus on the riches and rewards of Christ by walking in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14, 5:18). This group is focused on being instead of doing as their identity is found through Christ and they are simply living out their true identity instead of trying to work hard enough to act spiritual.
The game of Bang forms a strong, though imperfect, metaphor for this world view and the three groups of people identified in the Bible. As mentioned above, each of the groups can be identified by their actions and relationship with God. In our metaphor, the Sheriff represents God and each of the roles, outlaws, deputies, and renegades, are all defined based on their relationship and actions toward God.
First are the outlaws. The outlaws are those who are opposed to the Sheriff (God). For the first few rounds of the game and even later in some cases, the outlaws may not be violent or extreme in their hatred toward the Sheriff, but they will always prefer themselves over the sheriff when a decision must be made in, for example, a general store. Also, the outlaws attitudes and intentions toward the Sheriff are not loving and this attitude will lead to action eventually (assuming the outlaw stays alive long enough to get to attack the Sheriff). In our metaphor, the outlaws are like the unsaved who, although they may not be living in absolute sin and outward hatred toward God, they will always prefer themselves over God and His glory and their attitudes are not glorifying to God. Their relationship with God (the Sheriff) is one of antagonism.
Next comes the renegades. The renegades are those who, at the beginning of a standard game, are acting as if they are on the Sheriff’s side, but are really only acting that way for their own benefit so that they can set up the game to win for themselves. To begin with, their decisions will benefit the Sheriff but at some point during the game there is a switch that occurs and their true priorities come to light as they attack the Sheriff or at least support the outlaws still in the game. Renegades in the game of Bang are very similar to the counterfeit unsaved who, for some reason, think they are saved or are acting as if they are saved but are not truly saved. Their relationship with God will eventually be made clear at some point in their lives as the Apostle John assures us in 1 John by assuring believers that “We will know them (false teachers and the counterfeit unsaved) by their deeds.”
Lastly in our game of Bang we have the deputies. The deputies have one of the most modest and undervalued roles in the game as their primary mission is to support the Sheriff. In a game without table talk, it will be hard for a while to tell the difference between the renegades and the deputies (think of the parable of the tares). The deputies success is intertwined with the success of the Sheriff and their job is faithful and humble service to serve the Sheriff. The deputies are very much like those who are saved. As Christians, our glory, desire, and reward should be tied to Christ’s glory and reward. There may be counterfeit unsaved members of our churches and yet our job is to faithfully and humbly serve the Sheriff knowing that time will show who people really are.
As I mentioned earlier, there are two classifications given in the Bible of true believers: carnal Christians and spiritual Christians. How does this fit into the game of Bang? On occasion, a player forgets who they are and will act out of character. While bad plays do not change the player’s role (for example a deputy that shoots the Sheriff is still the deputy1), it does damage to the relationship between the Sheriff and deputy and is out of character for the deputy to shoot the Sheriff. When we, as Christians, sin we are not acting according to who we were made to be in Christ, but we are acting out of Character and “shooting the Sheriff” so-to-speak in a spiritual sense.
All that being said, there are some important and powerful differences between the Sheriff in a game of Bang and God. The first is that God is sovereign and knows whose are His. How comforting to know that God knows our hearts and, even in the midst of imposters or those who refuse to seek Christ, God knows that we are His! God is not guessing about who loves Him and who does not. Secondly, in a game of Bang sometimes the outlaws win; sometimes the deputy and Sheriff win; even on rare occasions a renegade wins. In the real world of God’s working, however, the end is clearly laid out in the Bible and we know that God will win and those who are in Him will triumph with Him and be rewarded for their faithfulness. It is such an encouragement to see that our God has been faithful in the past (Psalms 40:4-5; Psalms 106 & 107; Jeremiah 31:35-37) and will show Himself faithful in the future (Revelation (the whole book))!
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” ~ Ephesians 5:15-17