Thanks to our church’s Assistant Pastor, Wayne Ledbetter, I now have a new insight into righteousness. Recently, while working through 1st Timothy Chapter 1, Wayne presented one of the most powerful bible classes I have ever attended. What touched my soul was his discussion of our tendency to classify sin and our tendency to not understand the difference between righteousness and morality. By mentally making immorality a grievous sin while attempting to categorize other sins such as idolatry and lying as major and minor, we may often slow the development of our spirituality and our love for one another.
Imagine your salvation experience as being analogous to escaping across the border from the foreboding characteristics of cold war era East Germany to complete freedom in urban West Germany. In this case, there is a very discernable border outlined by barbed wire, concrete walls, and guards with automatic weapons. Once you get across the border, you have a deep appreciation for where you are, and you can look back over the wall and see where you were. You may even have relatives and friends, who have chosen to remain behind, trapped and held by the evil powers that control them.
Imagine that there are other places along the rural border between East and West Germany that are not as well defined. In some places the border may be a river or a road. In some cases it may be completely invisible, buried somewhere deep in a wooded area. But even though it’s not visible, it’s still there, and the enemy is always waiting, ready to recapture you should you stray across.
Our escape from the world, its evil, and spiritual death at the hand of Satan, to a new eternal life in “God’s Country” is identical in principle. The borders in this case, however, are no longer physical in nature but are instead God’s law that is detailed in Leviticus chapters 18-20. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has provided a means for our escape from Satan’s grasp and we are now free, on the other side of the law, living as God’s children. We can still clearly see the other side, our friends, relatives, and others who have chosen not to come with us, instead choosing to remain behind. Although we who have escaped know that the powers of darkness are waiting at the border to quickly recapture us if we should stray across, rather than running as far away from the border as we can, we tend to hang around close to the point of our escape. Sometimes we almost taunt the border guards.
Once in a while we leave the city and go to the rural areas and take a walk into the woods where we know that the border isn’t well defined and the enemy lies in wait. We understand that, because we have already escaped once, we can expect to be treated very harshly by the enemy if we are recaptured. Knowing these things, we’re still willing to take the chance just to visit our old friends. Sometimes we beat the odds, willfully crossing over and back without being recaptured. But then the fateful day comes when, wham, we’re recaptured, humiliated, abused and dragged right back where we started before we escaped. In reality, we’re mentally minimizing the danger of crossing the border, which is God’s law, by downgrading its importance.
Even though we would agree that the sins of lying and idolatry are just as potentially deadly to our souls as those of homosexuality or adultery, we somehow tend to minimize the first two while accepting the others as grievous. We might agonize for days before deciding against cheating on our wife or husband, but hesitate only seconds before telling a “white lie” or embellishing a story we’re telling. In our Father’s eyes, they are the same. They are all sin! As soon as we establish specific forms of sexual immorality or capital crime as our benchmark for grievous sin, we are leaving ourselves open to minimizing all others. Sin is sin, and that’s all there is to it!
This behavior is evident in today’s environment, where many churches are jumping on the anti-homosexual bandwagon by proclaiming themselves against same sex marriages. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea, it’s the right thing for us to do – unless we fail to take the same stand against all liars, idolaters, adulterers, and all other sin as described in Leviticus as well. Those sins are just as deadly to the body of Christ and just as unacceptable to our Father. But we seem to have minimized or trivialized them to the point where we’re comfortable with them and ignore them.
We have become complacent with what we consider lesser sins to the point of allowing our children to watch cartoon shows where lying children are an acceptable and supposedly funny part of the program. We’re comfortable watching movies, sit-coms and game shows where adultery, covetousness and idolatry are encouraged. Yes, we have mentally created too many places along the border between God’s Country and the world where we’re comfortable sneaking across for a quick visit with our old friends and habits. It’s time to ask ourselves if we’re really serious about our quest for holiness. It’s time to ask ourselves if we’re really ready to give up everything and follow Christ. It’s time to ask ourselves if we’re willing to stand for Christ and be obviously different from everyone else! Thanks to my pastor, Wayne, I know what my answers to those questions are.
Thanks, Wayne and thanks Annie!