Monday, November 7, 2011

Lines Drawn in the Sand When They Should Be Carved Into the Rock

Today in the news there is a story about a Catholic publishing company.  It seems as they were publishing much more than Catholic literature.  In fact, they were publishing the literary version of pornography.  These books involved stories of fornication advertised by cover imagery featuring women in underwear and lingerie.  I am not writing today to pick on that publisher or the Catholic church in general, but to see how they are the symptom of a problem we all face.  The Bible is very clear on the limits of behavior appropriate for a Christian.  Sadly, many of us focus on the letter of the law becoming mini-lawyers where we parse words in a way that would impress even Bill Clinton.  When this happens, we completely ignore the spirit if the law and we fall into sin all the while convincing ourselves that we are not "technically" sinning.  We do not start out that way, we start out rather innocently.  There is a line we know we should not cross and we know should be immovable.  What happens, is we move that line ever so slightly.  Once you move that line, though, you realize that it can be moved. 
Abstain from all appearance of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV
That is the line as given by Scripture.  Do not do something if it even looks bad.  In other words, if there is any question as to whether or not something is right or wrong, we should not do it.  If we held that line, things would be so much better.  We don't, though, and this is often the first line we cross.  In fact, moving this line is the core of all those times when we slowly fall into sin.  First we say that this couldn't look bad so I will do it.  Then we say it shouldn't look bad so I will do it.  Then we say that might look bad, but only because people don't know me or my motivations.  Then we say it it does look bad, but God knows my heart and my motive is good.  Then we do not even bother to defend our actions but defiantly cry out against someone judging our actions.  That is a path many of us have taken.  Let's look at how this scenario plays out in our lives. 

First, let us look at this Catholic publisher.  At first, they were probably solid in only publishing appropriate literature.  Perhaps one day they decided to take on some secular authors and titles.  They moved the line.  Once the line was moved, that line continued to move over time until one day they found themselves in complete apostasy.  It most likely did not start there, but it certainly ended there as they moved that line more and more.

One of the areas in our lives that this happens is with our secular (and sadly many times Christian) friends.  You enjoy spending time with them, but they enjoy doing things that you should not be doing.  At first, you do not get yourself involved in their sinful activities.  As the pressure to still maintain that relationship continues, perhaps you begin accompanying them to places where you should not be even if you do not partake in those activities.  Maybe you go to bars with them, but you do not drink.  Once again, as you are surrounded by that influence maybe you begin to drink, but refrain from getting drunk.  I am sure you can see where this is going. Eventually, as the drinking continues so does the temptation and you find yourself getting drunk along with them. 

Another example is in the case of dating.  We know that we are supposed to date people in the faith.  In the beginning, that is the single most important qualification of our search.  The idea of meeting someone who shares your love for the Lord is of the utmost importance in your search. As time goes on and God has not given you that person, you begin to lower your standards.  It goes first from someone who shares your love for the Lord to someone who associates as being a Christian.  Of course you are still following the letter of the law, but you have abandoned the spirit of the law.  When that does not work and you have seen that the line can be moved, you move it all the more.  It goes from someone who may not love the Lord, but calls himself or herself a Christian to someone who just says they believe in Jesus.  This person is no real Christian at all, but someone who may have grown up in the church or it is the only God they are familiar with, but either way, Jesus is just their name for a God whose existence they ascent to.  They really are not a Christian at all.  When the loneliness grows all the more, so does the compromise.  The next step is to date someone who is open to Christianity. They have no real faith in anything, but they are willing to go to church with you or even make some intellectual conversion on paper despite having no interest in any kind of true saving faith.  Finally, you arrive at complete apostasy where faith is not important at all.  You figure that you are only dating and not marrying and the Bible is really talking about marriage, so what is the harm.  At this point, what began as a compromise has ended in rebellion. 

Speaking of dating, another common place where we move our lines is when it comes to physical intimacy. Countless Christians have fallen into sexual sin and many of those began with purity pledges.  Once again, though, it is a matter of moving the line.  The idea is to be pure for your futures spouse, what it turns into is how far can one go to still technically be a virgin on their wedding day.  The idea idea of being a virgin until the wedding night becomes until I met who I think will be my spouse and finally becomes when you are "really" in "love."  It all begins with allowing a hard line to be moved.  What begins as kissing moves to touching.  Once that line is crossed, so does the line of where touching can happen.  Once that line is crossed, the idea of over or under clothes becomes the line that is moved.  Once you touch under clothes, it is a small step to seeing under clothes.  Then what defines virginity becomes negotiable.  Then, ultimately, when to lose one's virginity comes up for debate. 

What I am saying by all of this is that we need to be firm in our values.  We can not move lines because once those lines are moved, it is easier to move them again.  That line should not be drawn in the sand, but chiseled into stone so that it can never be moved.  We should not just abstain from sin, but avoid sinful situations that can tempt us to move that line.  We should not just seek a partner in life with the hopes that whomever it is that they share our faith, but we should seek a partner in our faith and trust God to work out where that relationship goes.  We must never compromise our faith that He will find that person for us and not try to "help" Him  by lowering His standards for the right person that He has for us.  And we should never play with fornication as though you can compromise with purity.  Purity means pure, plain and simple.  Even a little taint makes the pure impure and you can no longer claim purity.  In all that we do, our integrity, our character, our purity, our witness, our values, our faith, our relationship with God, and anything in our lives, we must never compromise.  It is ironic, most people who compromise who they are in Christ will accuse me of being a legalist.  What is ironic about that is that they are the one quibbling over tiny details in the law to somehow fulfill it on a technicality.  They forget the spirit of the law.  What is the spirit if the law?
but as He who called you [is] holy, you also be holy in all [your] conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV

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