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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Vision isn't Blurry...

And no, I'm not talking about glasses prescriptions.

I turned the tv off last night, and felt dazed by the sheer number of assaults on my senses, all attempts to get me to blur the line I've drawn between good and evil, sin and righteousness. Nearly every television show, advertisement, and news story had a political or moral agenda that opposed my conservative Christian worldview. Even the magazine I was paging through was clamoring for my attention and begging me to blur the line.

No wonder so many Christians today have a hard time doing what is right. There is a constant barrage of images that tell us it's okay to cheat on our spouses, to engage in perverse lifestyles, to be alcoholics or drug abusers, and so forth. There is always an excuse or a gloss of heroism or hurt feelings that covers over a world of wrongs. It is no longer culturally acceptable to tell someone he or she is wrong or is hurting others. At the same time, it is still not culturally acceptable to hurt people or feel bad about anything....And we wonder why we're so messed up?

I don't mean to give my fellow Christians too many excuses. The Bible doesn't say anywhere that we are controlled by our environment. It actually says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12: 21 NIV). In other words, we can help it when we feel ourselves being pulled in.

The Disease

I think when Christians give in, they don't give in suddenly. We listen to the barrage of sexual images and other shocking and offensive things, until we become desensitized to the acid potency of the messages. We can hear things that would have once made us sick to our stomachs or turned our faces red with shame, and turn around and go about our daily lives without batting an eyelash. Before we know it, we've begun to rationalize and excuse behavior that is just plain wrong--and when that has happened, we begin to be enticed by things we'd never thought we would be interested in doing.

Entering a hermitage is not an option for us. Christians cannot withdraw from the world, because the world needs what we have. We would be stingy if we didn't share with them the truth about Christ. He is the only one who can help them--as He has been the only one who has helped us. But how do we live in the world without being "overcome by evil"?

The Antidote

I think we should be watching for the first signs that evil is threatening to take us down. Christians should be constantly on guard about what they are overlooking in their own lives, because it is through those "chinks" in the armor that we can be pulled in. Even though God has put us out there as a sort of messenger envoy to the whole world, He did not put us here to be tempted by evil. He has given us a first line of defense, and that is vigilance.

I can think of two passages that apply to this situation. The first was written by James, the son of Joseph and Mary, who grew up in the same household with Jesus:
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1: 13-19 NIV)
What is James saying here? I can see a lot of implications. God cannot be tempted by evil, because He sees that evil leads only to death. God also does not tempt us, because He knows that evil leads us to death. Evil enters our lives through a process of rationalization and legitimization, until we have entertained a thought long enough to carry it out. Once we have done the sin, we are doomed to death as long as we continue to be deceived and have not repented of it. So what's our defense? Seeing evil for what it is, and refusing to be deceived in the first place. Christians must be able to see sin the same way that God does, and that can only be overcome by changing our focus.

James shifts the focus to God in the next part of the passage. God gives us things that lead to life--they are good and perfect, coming from above, and leading to better and better things. How different life is, when we've focused on God, and not what "seems right" or "looks good" to us. As long as we are focused on the here-and-now, our own lives, our own desires, and our own sense of right and wrong, we will be deceived. If we want to "overcome evil with good" we have to start by putting our foot down when that first thought tries to make an inroad into our lives.

The second passage I have in mind is in a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, in Greece:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

We have the power to overcome the evil in the world, and not be overcome by it. We can't do this by vigilance alone, however. We are still fallible human beings. Christians have been given a secret weapon, beyond common sense. We have God to warn us, to guide us, and to give us a way out. Nothing can make us do wrong. There is always a way out. We are not controlled by our environment!

I'm talking to myself, here, as well. After I turned off the television last night and felt an instant sense of relief, I wondered why I had allowed myself to endure the barrage in the first place. Don't I have power over my own remote control? No wonder I felt worn-out, and a little guilty for allowing all of that junk--definitely not "good and perfect thing[s]"--into my mind.

It's time for me to be a little more "prudish" in the eyes of the world. After all, they aren't looking out for me in the end. Their eyes are too focused on their own desires to look out for my good. God is looking out for me, and He has warned me. Now it's my turn to heed the warning and take the escape route.

My vision isn't blurry. I know what I'm looking at, and I know what the Bible says about it. I need to keep God's truth ever foremost in my mind, letting Him test what I see to see if it's "good," and letting Him lead me away from the bad that might destroy my life.


Anonymous said...

"Watching" and "seeing" are important in the Christian's daily walk. I Thessalonians 5:6,15

Rachel said...

Yes, I agree with you, and thank you for the comment--although I'm confused about how 1 Thessalonians 5: 15, "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else," applies. Didn't you mean verse 14, "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone"? Just asking.