Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Sin (page 1 / 1)

A Good Husband's Guide

Men and women are always arguing over who has the tougher role to play. Obviously, it's the other gender.

Leanne Bell offers an interesting take, called the Good Husband's Guide. Refreshingly, she takes the men's side of the argument.

In May of 1955, a magazine called Housekeeping Monthly ran a short point-form article called "The Good Wife's Guide." The article is unaccredited, but I am sure that like many other articles written in 1950's women's magazine, it was probably written by a woman. This article was sent around by email to all the workstations in my office, and probably visited many other inboxes around the world as well.

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

  • Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

  • Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his personal comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

There's more.

Now, most modern men would say that such a guide is sexist and demeaning to women. Asked privately, perhaps after a few beers and promises of confidentiality, most men would also say that such a home sounds darn appealing. And, it is. Mostly because we're not the ones working to make it.

But men aren't the only ones guilty of looking to enjoy the good life. Ms. Bell happily recognizes that and presents the opposite guide. The Good Husband's Guide.

  • Always make getting and keeping a full-time job with regular raises, benefits, bonuses and the potential for prestigious advancement your number one priority in life. Remember always that you have a wife and children who need your financial support, and that it is your responsibility to provide for them to the best of your ability.

  • Always arrive home refreshed and happy - put your bad day or your confrontation with your boss, the traffic, the crowds or the physical exhaustion you might feel aside and try to arrive home as cheery and lighthearted as you possibly can. Your wife has been struggling with the children and the housework all day, she does not need to hear about how bad your day was.

  • Be prepared to help with household chores when you get home - let your wife relax or talk on the phone since she has been dealing with these problems all day. Make supper for her often, and offer to clean up afterwards so that she may rest and feel appreciated.

  • Do not bore your wife with stories of the troubles you faced at work today. Remember that you are lucky to have a job and that many other men would be happy to trade places with you. Remember that it is not masculine to complain or let worries trouble you. Your job is to provide, and whatever you must go through to achieve this is part of your lot in life. A good husband knows that he is lucky to have a wife at all, and that a woman wants a strong, silent man she can depend on.

There's more of that too. Note how normal it all sounds? What husband hasn't heard his wife, or his wife's friends, express similar sentiments?

Let's leave that thought there and turn to Matt Patterson for a moment: Men, the Gender Wars Are Over -- We Won.

Men, our long twilight struggle with the opposite sex is over. Our victory is total.

Can you believe the way things used to be? Remember when our fathers and grandfathers would drag themselves to mind-numbing jobs every day, having the sole responsibility for the feeding, clothing, and housing of their entire family?

And things were no easier before marriage, when men's quest for sexual satisfaction was all too often hampered by the widespread moral code which taught women not to give out the "milk" for "free."

Well, that state of affairs just wouldn't do. So we men came together and did what we do best -- formulate and implement a plan. First step, design the perfect world, the perfect male world. We decided such a world would consist of two things: less responsibility and more -- and no-strings -- sex.

Brothers, have we succeeded.

The amazing thing, really, is how easy it was, how fast the old world of obligation and responsibility dissolved. The first, crucial step, of course, was convincing women that they had it bad, that our jobs were "intellectually stimulating" and not the soul-crushing monotony that they in fact were.

There's more of that too.

What's my point? Well, I was entertained by both Leanne and Matt. And both reinforced my personal opinion: "life is pain" and the grass is the same shade of green on both sides of the fence. We're just capable of deluding ourselves into believing that it's less rote, less monotonous, and more stimulating on the other side.

That's it, really. I'm not sure I have a broader point to make here. Except, you know, thank your spouse for handling whatever crap that they go through each day.

The Earth is the Lord's

In Calvinism Continued, Adam argues that it's nonsense to suggest that all sin is really a sin against God.

A Christian might also suggest that all sins are sins against God, not men - but that is simply nonsense. Whosoever harms me, harms me (a better argument is the idea that God wants you to forgive as you were forgiven, but that proves a lack of need for blood). God is by all accounts undamaged. Indeed, the only crime against God must be simple, completely ineffective rebellion - which we must assume does not hurt God's feelings, because that would suggest we have some power over Him - and the idea that God can't put up with that suggests He's not merciful at all.

I disagree, for perfectly valid libertarian reasons. But to follow the logic, you'll have to temporarily assume that the Bible is what it claims to be: God's attempt to reveal who he is and what he's all about.

Propositions:

  1. God created the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
  2. God created man (Genesis 2:7-8)
  3. Ownership comes from mixing labor (John Locke)

Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.

Conclusion: God owns the earth and everything in the earth -- including us. Further conclusion: Because God owns us, he can do with us as he likes. He has, in fact, done so by giving us the Law and requiring us to obey it. I'd say that most of the Old Testament assumes this point of view.

Deuteronomy 10:12-14

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

1 Samuel 2:8

He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world.

1 Chronicles 29:11

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

Nehemiah 9:6

You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

Psalm 24:1-4

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

To repeat my argument: God created the world and everything in it, including us. Therefore, God owns us and is perfectly justified in doing with us as he likes. God has designed his world (his universe) to run according to certain laws. Every violation of those laws is a violation of the "natural order" of things and a rebellion against God. Rebellion is nothing more nor less than taking that which doesn't belong to you, namely power.

True, your sin of theft is between you and your victim. He's harmed by longer having that which once belonged to him. But your theft is a crime against God: you've also usurped his power to decide what is and isn't right. You've placed your own judgment and desires above his.

Jonathan Edwards makes the argument that punishment must be proportional to the degree of sin. He goes on to argue that sin is a crime against an infinite God and deserving of infinite punishment.

A crime is more or less heinous, according as we are under greater or less obligations to the contrary. This is self-evident; because it is herein that the criminalness or faultiness of any thing consists, that it is contrary to what we are obliged or bound to, or what ought to be in us. So the faultiness of one being hating another, is in proportion to his obligation to love him. The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to honour him. The fault of disobeying another, is greater or less, as any one is under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

Our obligation to love, honour, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honourableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honourable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honour. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience.

But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honourable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honourable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.

So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.

Therefore, I argue, God is perfectly justified in any punishment he cares to deal out.

Visiting Sin to the Third and Fourth Generation

John Piper offers some helpful insight on some confusing Bible passages.

Does God visit the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation? Some texts seem to say he does and others seem to say he doesn't. Our job is to figure out the sense in which he does and the sense in which he doesn't.

How do these passages fit together? This matters for the sake of God's character, and the Bible's coherence, and how we counsel those whose parents were wicked or just garden variety sinful.

This entry was tagged. Bible John Piper Sin

The Problem of Pride and the Difficulty of Humility

Tim Keller writes about humility.

We are on slippery ground because humility cannot be attained directly. Once we become aware of the poison of pride, we begin to notice it all around us. We hear it in the sarcastic, snarky voices in newspaper columns and weblogs. We see it in civic, cultural, and business leaders who never admit weakness or failure. We see it in our neighbors and some friends with their jealousy, self-pity, and boasting.

And so we vow not to talk or act like that. If we then notice "a humble turn of mind" in ourselves, we immediately become smug—but that is pride in our humility. If we catch ourselves doing that we will be particularly impressed with how nuanced and subtle we have become. Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves. To even ask the question, "Am I humble?" is to not be so. Examining your own heart, even for pride, often leads to being proud about your diligence and circumspection.

Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less, as C. S. Lewis so memorably said. It is to be no longer always noticing yourself and how you are doing and how you are being treated. It is "blessed self-forgetfulness."

Humility is a byproduct of belief in the gospel of Christ. In the gospel, we have a confidence not based in our performance but in the love of God in Christ (Rom. 3:22-24). This frees us from having to always be looking at ourselves. Our sin was so great, nothing less than the death of Jesus could save us. He had to die for us. But his love for us was so great, Jesus was glad to die for us.

... This is the place where the author is supposed to come up with practical solutions. I don't have any. Here's why.

First, the problem is too big for practical solutions. The wing of the evangelical church that is most concerned about the loss of truth and about compromise is actually infamous in our culture for its self-righteousness and pride. However, there are many in our circles who, in reaction to what they perceive as arrogance, are backing away from many of the classic Protestant doctrines (such as Forensic Justification and Substitutionary Atonement) that are crucial and irreplaceable — as well as the best possible resources for humility.

Second, directly talking about practical ways to become humble, either as individuals or as communities, will always backfire. I have said that major wings of the evangelical church are wrong. So who is left? Me? Am I beginning to think only we few, we happy few, have achieved the balance that the church so needs? I think I hear Wormwood whispering in my ear, "Yes, only you can really see things clearly."

I do hope to clarify, or I wouldn't have written on the topic at all. But there is no way to begin telling people how to become humble without destroying what fragments of humility they may already possess.

This entry was tagged. Pride Sin Tim Keller

We Put the Girl in the Window

This story just breaks my heart. A 7-year old girl who was so neglected that she became a "feral child" -- completely unable to relate to other people, process emotions, or relate to the world.

"I've been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad," Holste said later. "There's just no way to describe it. Urine and feces -- dog, cat and human excrement -- smeared on the walls, mashed into the carpet. Everything dank and rotting."

Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke, dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows. Trash blanketing the stained couch, the sticky counters.

The floor, walls, even the ceiling seemed to sway beneath legions of scuttling roaches.

First he saw the girl's eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn't looking at him so much as through him.

She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked -- except for a swollen diaper.

"The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high," the detective said. "The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs."

When he bent to lift her, she yelped like a lamb. "It felt like I was picking up a baby," Holste said. "I put her over my shoulder, and that diaper started leaking down my leg."

The authorities had discovered the rarest and most pitiable of creatures: a feral child.

The term is not a diagnosis. It comes from historic accounts -- some fictional, some true -- of children raised by animals and therefore not exposed to human nurturing. Wolf boys and bird girls, Tarzan, Mowgli from The Jungle Book.

"In the first five years of life, 85 percent of the brain is developed," said Armstrong, the psychologist who examined Danielle. "Those early relationships, more than anything else, help wire the brain and provide children with the experience to trust, to develop language, to communicate. They need that system to relate to the world."

The importance of nurturing has been shown again and again. In the 1960s, psychologist Harry Harlow put groups of infant rhesus monkeys in a room with two artificial mothers. One, made of wire, dispensed food. The other, of terrycloth, extended cradled arms. Though they were starving, the baby monkeys all climbed into the warm cloth arms.

"Primates need comfort even more than they need food," Armstrong said.

Thankfully she was found by a great set of adoptive parents who are doing everything they can to love her and help her. As I read the story I wanted so hard to find a villain. Somebody that I could hate for doing this to a child. But it's hard to really blame the mother.

A judge ordered Michelle [Danielle's mother] to have a psychological evaluation. That's among the documents, too.

Danielle's IQ, the report says, is below 50, indicating "severe mental retardation." Michelle's is 77, "borderline range of intellectual ability."

"She tended to blame her difficulties on circumstances while rationalizing her own actions," wrote psychologist Richard Enrico Spana. She "is more concerned with herself than most other adults, and this could lead her to neglect paying adequate attention to people around her."

If there's any villain here, I think it's humanity. We rebelled against God and decided that we wanted to do everything ourselves. We wanted to know both good and evil. We wanted to make our own decisions about right and wrong. We wanted to rule the universe and we wanted God to get out of our way. This is the end result. This is what our sin looks like. Is it fun yet?

Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places

A woman feels trapped in a loveless marriage. She goes online and starts chatting with "Prince of Joy". His compassion, tenderness shine through even as he describes his own loveless marriage. After several months of talking, they decide to meet in her person. Each will carry one rose. Imagine her surprise when she shows up at the cafe and sees her husband carrying a rose!

Apparently, that actually happened. (I say "apparently" because the whole story reads like something out of the Onion.)

This line tells you everything you need to know about human behavior.

"When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry."

So, they're both filing for divorce as a result of the other person's adultery.

This entry was tagged. Marriage Sin

Learning the Tricks of Children

Babies not as innocent as they pretend | Science | Earth | Telegraph

Dr Reddy said: "Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if their mother is responding, before crying again.

I'm pretty sure I've already caught Esther doing this. She's only 19 weeks, but she's smart. Devious too, apparently. Now I have proof that it wasn't just my imagination.

I'll have to keep an eye on this one...

This entry was tagged. Children Sin

What Is Idolatry?

Pastor Tim Keller describes sin and idolatry.

Sin isn't only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.

...

I do it this way, I take a page from Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death and I define sin as building your identity -- your self-worth and happiness -- on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything that they should be looking for in God. This idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.

Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer. To depict sin as not only a violation of law but also of love is more compelling. Of course a complete description of sin and grace includes recognition of our rebellion against God's authority. But I've found that if people become convicted about their sin as idolatry and misdirected love, it is easier to show them that one of the effects of sin is to put them into denial about their hostility to God. In some ways, idolatry is like addiction writ large. We are ensnared by our spiritual idols just like people are ensnared by drink and drugs. We live in denial of how much we are rebelling against God's rule just like addicts live in denial of how much they are trampling on their families and loved ones.

Please do read the whole thing. I found it both thought provoking and convicting.

This entry was tagged. Sin

The Effects of Sin

Several weeks ago, Pastor John Piper preached a message entitled The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth. I started listening to it yesterday. One portion in particular really caught my attention. I'm guilty of not taking sin anywhere near as seriously as it should be taken. This message really gives me something to think about.

The Unendurable Sight of Suffering

So the big picture in outline form: God created the universe out of nothing; it was all very good the way he made it; it had no flaws, no suffering, no pain, no death, no evil; then Adam and Eve did something in their hearts that was so horrifyingly evil -- so unspeakably wicked, preferring the fruit of a tree to fellowship with God -- that God not only sentenced them to death (Genesis 2:17), but also subjected the entire creation to what Paul called "futility" and "bondage to corruption" (Romans 8:21-22).

In other words, whereas once there was no suffering or pain or death, now every human dies, every human suffers, animals suffer, rivers overflow their banks suddenly and sweep villages away, avalanches bury skiers, volcanoes destroy whole cities, a tsunami kills 250,000 people in one night, storms sink Philippine ferries with 800 people on board, AIDS and malaria and cancer and heart disease kill millions of people old and young, a monster tornado takes out an entire Midwestern town, droughts and famines bring millions to the brink -- or over the brink -- of starvation. Freak accidents happen, and the son of a friend falls into a grain elevator and dies. Another loses an eye. And a baby is born with no face. If we could see one ten-thousandth of the suffering of the world at any given moment, we would we would collapse under the horror of it all. Only God can endure that sight and carry on.

The Horror of Sin Pictured in Creation's Futility

Why did God subject the natural order to such futility because of the sin of human beings? The natural order did not sin. Humans sinned. But Paul said, "The creation was subjected to futility." The creation was put in "bondage to corruption." Why? God said, "Cursed be the ground because of you" (Genesis 3:17). But why? Why are there natural disasters in creation in response to moral failures in man? Why not just simple death for all the guilty offspring of Adam? Why this bloody kaleidoscope of horrific suffering century after century? Why so many children with heart-wrenching disabilities?

My answer is that God put the natural world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in diseases and calamities would become vivid pictures of how horrible sin is. In other words, natural evil is a signpost pointing to the unspeakable horror of moral evil.

God disordered the natural world because of the disorder of the moral and spiritual world -- that is, because of sin. In our present fallen condition, with our hearts so blinded to the exceeding wickedness of sin, we cannot see or feel how repugnant sin is. Hardly anyone in the world feels the abhorrent evil that our sin is. Almost no one is incensed or nauseated at the way they belittle the glory of God. But let their bodies be touched with pain, and God is called to give an account of himself. We are not upset at the way we injure his glory, but let him injury our little pinky finger and all our moral outrage is aroused. Which shows how self-exalting and God-dethroning we are.

The Trumpet Blast of Physical Pain

Physical pain is God's blast with a physical trumpet to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong morally and spiritually. Diseases and deformities are Satan's pride. But in God's overruling providence, they are God's portraits of what sin is like in the spiritual realm. That is true even though some of the most godly people bear those deformities. Calamities are God's previews of what sin deserves and will one day receive in judgment a thousand times worse. They are warnings.

O that we could all see and feel how repugnant, how offensive, how abominable it is to prefer anything to our Maker, to ignore him and distrust him and demean him and give him less attention in our hearts than we do the carpet on our living room floor. We must see this, or we will not turn to Christ for salvation from sin, and we will not want heaven for any reason but relief. And to want heaven for relief is to be excluded.

Wake Up! Sin Is Like This!

Therefore God, mercifully, shouts to us in our sicknesses and pain and calamities: Wake up! Sin is like this! Sin leads to things like this. (See Revelation 9:20; 16:9, 11.) Preferring television to fellowship with God is like this. Desiring relief in heaven, but not desiring the Redeemer, is like this. The natural world is shot through with horrors that aim to wake us from the dream world of thinking that demeaning God is no big deal. It is a horrifically big deal.

I preached this truth at Bethlehem on the fourth anniversary of Nine-Eleven, knowing that there were people in our church dealing with terrible suffering. Two or three weeks later, I was in a pre-service prayer meeting with our folks, and one of the young mothers of a severely disabled child prayed, "Dear Lord, help me to feel the horror of sin the way I feel the horror of my son's disability."

This entry was tagged. John Piper Sin

Prostitution: Different from Adultery?

Earlier this week, Reason Magazine columnist Cathy Young asked why is it still illegal to pay for sex?

Yet prostitution is perhaps the ultimate victimless crime: a consensual transaction in which both parties are supposedly committing a crime, and the person most likely to be charged"”the one selling sex"”is also the one most likely to be viewed as the victim. (A bizarre inversion of this situation occurs in Sweden, where, as a result of feminist pressure to treat prostitutes as victims, it is now a crime to pay for sex but not to offer it for sale.) It is sometimes claimed that the true victims of prostitution are the johns' wives. But surely women whose husbands are involved in noncommercial"”and sometimes quite expensive"”extramarital affairs are no less victimized.

Another common claim is that prostitution causes direct harm by contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. However, that may be the reddest herring of them all. In Australia, where sex for money is legal, the rate of HIV infection among female prostitutes is so low that prostitution has been removed from the list of known risk factors in HIV surveillance. In the U.S., reliable data are more difficult to come by, but a 1987 Centers for Disease Control study likewise found very low infection rates among prostitutes.

Why is prostitution illegal? From a Biblical perspective, I have a very hard time distinguishing between prostitution and plain old adultery. In one case, one person directly pays another for sex. In the other case, one person indirectly pays another for sex through dinners, compliments, movies, and other outings. Why should it be illegal to pay a someone for a sex, but not illegal to take a co-worker out for dinner and drinks before going back to their apartment for sex?

I think the common answer is that sex should only be enjoyed within the context of a loving relationship -- that it shouldn't be commoditized and sold like any other service. I would agree that sex shouldn't be routinely bought and sold. I'm not at all certain that all prostitution occurs outside of a loving relationship. After all, some women would certainly leave a man if he didn't provide enough expensive gifts. Why should we classify cash payments any differently? I am certain that not all adultery occurs in the context of a loving relationship. Many men and women will commit adultery purely out spite and not because they love the person they are committing adultery with.

Simply put, I think there can be a lot of overlap between prostitution and adultery -- and adultery are equally morally objectionable. I don't see the distinction that makes one worthy of criminalization and the other "merely" worthy of scorn.

I'll talk later about whether I think adultery should be criminalized.

Mercy!

I read this today and I found it so thought-provoking that I wanted to pass it along

It wasn't a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn't a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members. But maybe that's the point. Perhaps it's very important because that's where I live everyday. You see, you and I don't live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don't careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn't set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in 10,000 little moments of everyday life. It's the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what's really going on in our hearts.

So, I knew I couldn't back away from this little moment. I knew I had to own my sin. The minute I thought this, an inner struggle began. "I wasn't the only one at fault. If he hadn't said what he said, I wouldn't have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation." These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

What's actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I've blown it, I've only one argument to make. It's not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It's not the argument of the difficult people that I'm near. It's not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument. It's right there in the first verse of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I've no other defense. I've no other standing. I've no other hope. I can't escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that's sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I'm not afraid, because I've been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It's my only appeal, it's the source of my hope, it's my life. Mercy, mercy me!

This entry was tagged. Good News Sin

Separation of Church and State

Earlier this month, Dr. Rich Scarborough -- pastor, and founder of Vision America -- sent out an e-mail talking about the role of Christians in American government.

This past week the Republican State Convention met in San Antonio, Texas. I was invited to speak at a Values Voter Rally at 8:30 PM in the Menger Hotel, across from the Convention Center. Once again, to my great delight, hundreds gathered to hear a Gospel artist sing and a Baptist Minister speak. As I spoke about the importance of Christians being salt and light in the moral and civil arena, the crowd erupted in applause several times and at the end, they stood to applaud.

As I left, I bowed my head and thanked God that many Christians are getting it! We are the Church and in America, we are the Government. Tell me, how do you separate the two without removing all Christian influence from the public arena?

I'd like to respond to that question.

"We are the Church and in America, we are the Government." That phrase sends chills up and down my spine -- and not in a good way. True, the Church is made up of God's people. True, most of those people earnestly desire to follow after God and live lives that are pleasing to Him. That does not, however, make them saints on earth. Christians can be just as prone to hubris, arrogance, and greed as non-Christians. The fact that a person is a Christian does not, in and of itself, mean that he or she should receive my vote.

Many Christians go into government with the goal of "Cleaning up Society." The American Family Association, and the Parents Television Council, for instance, strongly dislike much of the content on prime-time television. Their preferred solution is to make it illegal to broadcast certain language, show certain images, or portray certain ideas on broadcast television. Other groups want to criminalize all homosexual behavior, criminalize certain styles of dress, certain behaviors (like smoking and drinking), or criminalize any public vulgarity.

I have a big problem with this. It is an attempt to impose Christian morality by force. It is an attempt to make the entire country live according to Christian values and display Christian behaviors. A large portion of the nation is (or claims to be) Christian. A significant percentage of the country is not. (If 70% of 300 million people are Christian, that means 90 million people are not Christian.) These laws would force everyone to exhibit Christian behavior, regardless of the whether or not they truly love God and want to please Him. I believe this is wrong, that it is nothing more than forced hypocrisy.

Rather than making Christianity appealing to non-Christians, these laws would only reinforce the impression that Christianity is about following rules and living a certain way. Rather than communicating the great Truth -- that true Christianity is a relationship with an awesome Being that wants to know me personally -- these laws would reinforce the belief that Christians are concerned only with rules and controlling people. In short, legislating morality would Christianity odious to many of the unsaved, rather than desirable.

Why should I force someone who doesn't love God, who doesn't understand God, and who doesn't want anything to do with God to live under God's rules? God Himself doesn't require that. God allows billions of people around the world to live in sin each and every day. God allows each person on earth to live their life as they will. God allows each person the freedom to accept Him or reject Him. True, God desires certain behaviors and attitudes from those who love Him. But God doesn't impose His will anyone, even Christians.

If God does not force unbelievers to live according to a certain set of rules, I don't believe I have any authority whatsoever to rule over them. If God has voluntarily relinquished control over people's lives, how dare I pick up that control and attempt to wield it myself? Such behavior is rank arrogance -- an assumption that I know the mind of God and I know exactly what penalties and punishments He wishes to impose on those who disobey Him.

God desires one thing, and one thing only, from non-Christians: that they recognize His control over the universe, submit willingly to His authority, and love Him before all others. Everything else is secondary to this. Once a person's heart is aligned with God's, right behaviors will follow. If a person's heart is not aligned with God's, no amount of laws will improve his character or bring him any closer to purity.

I believe government has a responsibility to protect its citizens against aggression and fraud. Government should be concerned with prosecuting rape, murder, theft and fraud. I do not believe government should be concerned with the behavior of its citizens -- that is rightly the role of priests, pastors, and churches.

How then should Christians behave in government? If I do not believe that they should legislate according to their moral beliefs, how should they legislate? Christians should follow the advice of Micah 6:8

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Over and over and over and over again throughout Scripture, God's prophets and apostles urge His people to act justly -- not to accept bribes, not to treat the rich better than the poor, not to withhold from those in need. Over and over, God exhorts His people to treat everyone equally, to deal honestly, to honor contracts -- in short, to live with integrity. How many of our Congressman and Senators truly live up to these requirements? How many of our supposedly Christian legislators live up to these requirements? This how a Christian should act while in office. Christians in government should stand up for the oppressed, deal justly with everyone, and enforce the law equally on the rich and the poor.

Being a Christian legislator should not associated with enacting Christian morals but with display Christian values while in office. Christian legislators should set the standard for honesty, integrity, and humility in government. A legislator who displayed those moral values would be far more valuable than one who simply voted to fine television stations over vulgarity or who simply voted to require certain minimum standards of dress.

"How do you separate [Church and government] without removing all Christian influence from the public arena?" You separate the two by letting the church reign supreme in matters of morality and letting the government protect people's bodies and property. If Christian government officials focus their energies on ensuring that all people are protected equally and that government conducts its operations with integrity and humility, the Christian influence on the public arena will be huge.

Ultimately Christianity does not need the support of America's government in order to survive. Whether or not the Ten Commandments are displayed in America's courthouses is not nearly as important as whether or not America's people have the Ten Commandments written on their hearts. A Christian government can do nothing to write God's law on people's hearts, but it can ensure that all people are treated as God commands -- equally, with love and honesty.

This entry was tagged. Sin Virtues Voting

Showing Love

From the Armed Liberal at Winds of Change, comes this distressing little story:

Dear Amy: My husband and I have lived in our quiet suburban Denver neighborhood for six years. About two years ago two young gay men moved in across the street. They've taken the ugliest, most run-down property in the neighborhood and remodeled and transformed it into the pride of the street.

When it snows, they shovel out my car and are friendly, yet they mostly keep to themselves.

Last month I went out to retrieve my newspaper and watched them kiss each other goodbye and embrace as they each left for work.

I was appalled that they would do something like that in plain view of everyone. I was so disturbed that I spoke to my pastor. He encouraged me to draft a letter telling them how much we appreciate their help but asking them to refrain from that behavior in our neighborhood.

I did so and asked a few of our neighbors to sign it.

Since I delivered it, I've not been able to get them to even engage me in conversation.

I offer greetings but they've chosen to ignore me.

They have made it so uncomfortable for the other neighbors and me by not even acknowledging our presence.

How would you suggest we open communications with them and explain to them that we value their contributions to the neighborhood but will not tolerate watching unnatural and disturbing behavior. - Wondering

When I read the above letter early this morning, my initial reaction was one of horror -- horror that this woman would act in this manner. As I considered it further, I began to wonder if she'd been right. After all, aren't Christians called to take a stand against sin? The more I thought about it, however, the more I returned to my initial reaction. I was finally convinced in my reaction when I remembered the story of the Woman at the Well.

The Woman at the Well is a well-known Bible story from John 4:1-42. In it, Jesus is setting at a well when a Samaritan woman comes to draw water. In the story, Jesus commits the double "faults" of speaking to an adulterous woman and speaking to a Samaritan woman. During the conversation, He makes mention of her husband and she responds "I have no husband". Jesus says "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true."

This conversation is significant because, according to Jewish custom, this woman would have been considered a serial adulteress. It was a massive breach of custom, decorum, and tradition for Jesus to speak to her at all. When He did speak to her, it was with love and compassion. I find it interesting that after Jesus says what He does, He makes no further reference to her husbands or her adultery. For Him, the important issue is not her sin, but her salvation.

I think this is directly relevant to the story told by "Wondering". Homosexuals are looked down on by many Christians in much the same way that the woman at the well was looked down on by good Jews. In some ways, modern Christians are more accepting of homosexuals than Jews would have been of the woman at the well.

I am horrified by "Wondering's" account because she did not show the love of Christ to the men. Rather, she attacked them in a letter. Letters are a very impersonal, passive-agressive methods of communication. (They're passive-agressive because they give the recepient no immediate avenue of response.) Furthermore, it was a letter signed by many of the other people in the neighborhood. Unlike Christ, there is no indication that she forged a relationship with these men, that she addressed her concerns to them directly, or that she approached them with love. Instead, the only emotion she relates is that of being "disturbed".

While Christ did mention the sin of the woman at the well, He did so in the context of her need for salvation. "Wondering" did not do so. Instead, she made the neighbors' sin (and her dislike of it) the entire focus of her communication. I believe it is very unlikely that these men will ever listen to her or respect her after the way she treated them. Indeed, I think it is very likely that their view of Christianity itself has been tainted by her actions.

I am indignant because this woman threw away a golden opportunity to communicate the love and forgiveness of Christ. I believe we should follow His example when dealing with people in sin: address their spiritual needs first through love and compassion. If we do that, the sin issue will be far easier to deal with.

This entry was tagged. Sin