Thursday, July 18, 2013

Where the Evil Really Is

The temptation is to make rules --

"No PG-13, or above, movies."
"No tobacco."
"No alcohol."
"No pop music."
"No iPods."
"No dancing."

And so on, and so on. It's easier. We think that rules will make us safe and keep us moral.

That's all very well for pre-schoolers. Rules are a training tool. (Rather like spankings.) We have to learn that the stove is hot. But we can't just not touch the stove forever. Someday we're going to need to cook something, and we're going to need to open that oven. We need to understand what is hot in order to stay safe. But just because parts of it are hot, doesn't mean that we can hide from the stove forever.

Just because some music, some movies, some dancing, some smoking.... just because parts of our culture are perverted, that doesn't mean that we can hide from, or reject, every aspect of our culture forever.

Rules by themselves don't make us into mature men and women. We become mature, not when we have memorized a set of man's rules in our heads, but when we internalize God's standards in our hearts. We are mature when we love the standards.

A lot of times, parents let their young children run wild. They don't have standards -- or if they do, the standards are rarely enforced. When little kids sin, it's sometimes kind of "cute". Or funny. And so the parents laugh and tell the children "no, no". But the kids know they don't really mean it. Then as the children get older, the sins have bigger and more apparent consequences. And the parents freak out and lock down. Then, they realize that rebelliousness really isn't all that funny. It can wreck lives, get girls pregnant, change innocence into corruption. So the parents begin heaping on the restrictions and the children resent that.

Of course that's all done the opposite of how it should be done. When children are little they need to be restrained. Like saplings, they are supple when they're young. And it's then that they're shaped into the kind of adults they will be for always. As they get older, restrictions should be taken off, not heaped on. The goal is to love the standards in the end. The goal is that you don't have to tell your 16 year old what he can't watch, because he won't even want to watch anything that is displeasing to God. (Do notice I said that's the goal.....Not necessarily the reality.)

We have to get it into our heads that the evil is not in the stuff. Of course, it goes without saying, that some things are inherently sinful -- Like lying, stealing, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, etc. But your iPod is not evil. A movie is not evil because it is rated PG-13... (It's evil if it promotes or wrongfully portrays sin.) Smoking a pipe is not evil. We shouldn't be so ready to point fingers at everything around us - "That's a sin." "That's a sin." "That's a sin." Instead we need to think: "My use of that could potentially be a sin." 

The evil is really in us.

That's why it matters so much how we handle the stuff. It's not a sin to smoke a pipe or have a drink. It is a sin to drink or smoke excessively.  Dancing is not a sin (Actually, the Bible tells us to dance! :)). But it is a sin to dance in ways that violate any standards God's given us. It's not a sin to have an iPod. It is a sin to put ungodly songs on your iPod.

There's no way we'd be able to make an inexhaustive list of do's and don'ts, even if we spent all our lives adding to it and revising it. And besides, living off a list would make us into a bunch of stressed out teetotalers. . . not Heaven-minded Kingdom builders.

The real, and truly effective, way to deal with our culture and all its temptations, is to get our hearts right. Once we have the right standards written inside, we will be able to discern what is evil and what is good.  Whatever is in our hearts will come out in what we do and say. If we truly seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, then the evil won't have a chance to bewilder us. If we live loving the truth and goodness of beauty, the world can give us all it's got and we won't be fazed.


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