Archive for category Lessons Learned
I have this tendency, and I think it is a common tendency, to desire to pay for the price of my own sin. Whenever I sin against God, or make a mistake of some sort, and the guilt begins to set in, there is an immediate desire to fix my mistake. I do not think this is always a bad desire, because it is this same desire that causes us to ask for forgiveness and rebuild broken relationships. More often than not, however, my desire is not simply that – because it is often something done that cannot be undone – but it is a desire for penance.
Penance, as defined by Webster, is “The suffering, labor or pain to which a person voluntarily subjects himself, or which is imposed on him by authority as a punishment for his faults”. I have heard stories of Martin Luther, while he was still a monk, walking all day upon his knees in an attempt to atone for his sins. Others would sit upon tall poles; flogging was an equally proper technique. In the case of Martin Luther, however, nothing satisfied him. My form of penance was rather simple, but it was a forced distance from God. I would say, “Lord, I am not worthy to be in Your presence for what I have just done; I will avoid you, to pay for my mistake.” And like Luther before me, this never truly satisfied anything but my own pride.
There is a better way. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The problem with my “penance” is that it denied the fact that this verse tells us. God desired me to instantly come to Him, ask His forgiveness, and allow Him to cleanse me from all my unrighteousness. Instead, out of my desire for “penance”, I avoided the very source of my forgiveness. I have to forcefully remind myself of this fact.
I think the reason I must do this is that for me, and a great majority of mankind, we desire to work for our salvation. We want to feel like we have accomplished something on our own. This is a result of the Fall: we think, just like our parents Adam and Eve, we can become righteous on our own. Romans 4:4-5 tells us why this is a problem: “Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that works not, but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Penance becomes not a solution, then, but a problem. Our work to bring us back to God, whatever form it may take, becomes part of the debt that we owe for our sin. What God does not want are people who are independent from Him, able to be righteous on their own; that is, in fact, impossible. God desires those people who are wholly dependent upon Him, upon Christ, for their righteousness. A great hymn says:
“Could my tears forever flow;
Could my zeal no respite know;
These for sin could not atone.
Thou must save, and Thou alone!”
Christ is our righteousness. Instead of spiritually, mentally or even physically flogging ourselves, the moment we are convicted of our sin, let us draw near to the cleansing fountain, the blood of Christ. He will cleanse us from our unrighteousness. God is faithful to forgive; He will cast our sin are far as the east is from the west. He will not make us work for our righteousness, because He already has.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about physical fitness, namely, because many of my friends have been talking about it. On the positive side, it has greatly encouraged me to once again take up the mantle of working out on a semi-regular basis and try to live a healthier life. Some of my friends have been doing this through supplements, and it seems to have worked for them. I have been trying them as well, but to me, it didn’t feel quite right. It was then that God hit my mind with a thought.
How does the gospel relate to physical fitness and health? I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ relates to every area of our lives, not just whether or not we go to heaven. If that is true, then naturally, it must in some way relate to our health. Is physical fitness important to God? If so, how important is it, and why?
1. Our bodies belong to God
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor. 6:19-20
When a man becomes a Christian, he has effectively given his body over to Christ for His use in His Kingdom. It is only logical then that God can do whatever He wants with our bodies. Often, what He does is He reverses the sinful actions that we once did with our bodies, and returns them to His glorious purpose. This is why Paul says a few verses before this passage that we used to be idolatrous, lustful, thieving, murderous people (v. 11); but we are no more by the grace of God and the blood of Christ. Eyes that once looked upon women with sinful pleasure now see the needs of the broken world; hands that once stole or balled up into fists to fight now give out their strength and ability; hearts that once were exalted towards low, base, and vile things are now lifted up towards heaven.
So then, how does this relate to fitness and health? It is not uncommon knowledge that the citizens of the United States have something of a health problem. Where does this problem stem from? I believe it stems from the fact that…
2. Our bellies are our gods.
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. Php. 3:18-19
I remember stumbling across this phrase, and it stood out to me. I will say that this phrase does refer to every kind of desire and appetite, such as our sexual appetite, but that does include our appetite for food. Perhaps it is because we are used to such good food. For whatever reason, we find it so easy to eat whatever pleases our bellies, even if it isn’t the best thing for our bodies. I understand that there are genuine health issues that prevent someone from losing weight, and these need to be combated on their own. However, for the average person, their problem is not that they are unable to lose weight; they are simply unwilling. I include myself in this. Far too often, I stuff myself to the brim, far beyond what I actually need. There are times when feasting may be appropriate, but there are also times for fasting. Our problem with food is then primarily a sin problem, and for any sin problem…
3. The Gospel is the solution
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Rom. 6:6
Let us call our sin what it is: sin. Or you may call it by its proper name, gluttony. If you struggle with a desire for eating food, not to nourish your body (though of course this isn’t the only reason for eating; but that is for another post), but that you may satisfy an urge to excite your taste buds, then that is a sinful desire. There is nothing wrong with eating tasty food, let me make that clear. But just as God made sexual desire to be fulfilled in a proper context, so He created our appetite to be fulfilled in a proper context and a proper way. Too often we are addicted to our food. We need a Savior.
To put it simply: you need nothing but Jesus to become healthy. You do not need anything else, supplements of any sort. They may help and be a catalyst towards greater health, but your primary need is Jesus Christ. Through Christ, I have been set free from my need to fulfill my craving for food! I remind myself about this on an almost daily basis, but that does not lessen the power of the fact. Just as I have been set free from the need to lust after women, I have been set free from my need to lust after food.
Not only that, but Christ has kicked (and is kicking – sanctification) my laziness and slothfulness with the boot of grace. Is exercising for me painful? Yes, just like any mortal man; but unlike every mortal man, I have the grace of God behind me, to help me deny myself, and improve my body.
All this leads to a question: why do I exercise and improve my body?
4. For the Glory of God
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you… But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Cor. 9:23, 27
For me, my main reason for working out is so that wherever God calls me to be, I will be ready to go. I have a desire to live in a third-world country in those conditions. In order to do so, my body must be ready for that if God calls me to do so. I have heard that one of the greatest causes of death among missionaries today is cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest typically happens only to those whose bodies are not ready to endure physical hardship. Therefore, I run to the glory of God, that, were He to call me far away, I would be ready. I repeat Paul in saying, “This I do for the gospel’s sake.” I want to be ready to spread the gospel.
I once took a fitness class under a very godly man. He told us at the very outset, “If you want to work out so that you can look cute, or look good, or fit in such and such clothes, or get big muscles, then you should not be in this class.” While those may be fine goals for the world, we are not of the world. Our goals must be for Jesus and Jesus alone, not for any selfish gain. Because…
5. In the end, physical fitness is not that important.
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:8
Whereas there are many who struggle with gluttony and slothfulness, there are those that are addicted to the work out high and pride. Though God wants us to take care of the bodies He has given us, He does not want us to rely upon our own ability. That is the purpose of Paul’s exhortation. The profit, the gain, from physical fitness and health may in the now seem really great, and in some ways they really are; but in the end, it won’t matter how fit you were, if you missed the Center of the universe, Jesus Christ. Bodily exercise affects only our lives now; the pursuit of God affects today and all eternity. It’s simply a matter of far greater value.
It doesn’t matter if you are fit in this world if you are not “fit for the kingdom” (Luke 9:62). 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 tells us, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” Few are called, because few see their need. Just as a prostitute may see her need for Christ before a priest, a muscle warrior may be blinder to his need than a glutton.
God does not care how buff you are; He cares about what is inside you. Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, was probably physically much more worthy of the role of the King of Israel; yet the Lord rejected Him and chose David, the scruffy youngest brother. 10,000 men would have been much better to fight the Syrians for Gideon; yet God sent so many away there were only 300 left. God delights in taking those things that are weak and making them strong. Our inability is His opportunity for His ability.
To sum up: We must fight our sins, whether they be gluttony, laziness, or pride, with the grace God gives us. He has already won the victory in Christ. Our greatest need, in this life and in the next, is Christ and Christ alone.
It is a marvelous season of the year, and my life, as I have the joy and honor of seeing many of my friends happily becoming engaged or married. I have witnessed two weddings of very dear friends in this month alone, one of which was the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to. The chapel was gracefully decorated, paper lanterns of various shapes glowing blue. The wedding party entered, dressed in fine regalia, and the groom was beaming with joy of a dream come true. His youngest brother came in carrying a sign that read, “Here comes the bride!”
We all stood and turned our heads; it was as though an angel had appeared in our midst. Wearing white – the radiant fire of true purity – she shone in the light. The entire affair was pure loveliness, pure radiance, pure joy. The Light of the World shone through His beloved vessels that night.
The second wedding of the month was equally wonderful, but it felt different, unique. The bride appeared ethereal, and as we all stood gazing, the groom could not help but let a quick “Oh my goodness” escape his lips.
Then came the consummation of it all, when, after the vows had been said, the covenant had been affirmed, the pastor said, “You may now kiss your bride.” Oh, the beauty of pure love! I challenge any man who does not believe in magic to witness the purity and the happiness I saw as, somehow, two people are made into one flesh. This is something that the world cannot understand, for it is holy.
It is especially magical, knowing personally the bride and groom, and being intimate with their love story. The first groom is a man who has been my elder brother, a companion, and friend. The second, an intimate brother, one with whom I have fought alongside of, laughed alongside of, and cried alongside of. Their stories are both testimonies to the great grace and love of our God. As they both begin their lives together with their new spouses, I ask God to bless their unions. What God hath joined together, may no man break asunder.
Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 are some of the greatest and most beautiful verses on marriage in Scripture:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
In the end, every Christian marriage is to be a parable of the love Christ has for His Church. A wedding ceremony in itself is a picture of this: The bride, dressed in white, cleansed and pure. They exchange a covenant, holy before God. The groom gives his life to his bride; the bride, in return, takes on the groom’s name, and will forever be known by him. They came in separate; they leave as one. This parable known as marriage will one day end, for it is but a shadow of what is to come. And imagine – if the shadow is glorious, how much more the fullness!
Has there ever been a moment when you were reading, and a phrase or a sentence jumped out at you from the page and grabbed your eye like a fish hook? Sometimes it is due to incongruity (“What in the world is that doing there?”), but I speak more of the sort where something is so congruous, so poignant, that you simply cannot help but pause and stand to attention. This happened to me as I was reading the fourth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Quoting Psalm 68, he writes,
“Wherefore he saith, ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
One phrase in that hit me in the eye: He led captivity captive. The poetry, the imagery, the psalmist painted and the apostle emphasized is incredible. This is a profound verse, and in it, the entire gospel is contained.
When he ascended up on high – Paul continues in the next couple verses to make statements about Christ, saying, “Now he that ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” Thus we see a picture in Christ’s ascension first of His descension. He left His heavenly home, and all the glories therein, that He might descend to the earth and live life as a man. Living a perfect life, He was crucified on the cross, taking upon Himself the holy wrath of God against sin. Dead, He was buried in the earth; but not for all time. Three days later, He burst forth in glorious day, defeating death once and for all. Some days later, He ascended into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, far above all principalities and powers, and above every name that was named. All this is the glorious ascension of Christ.
He – This is He, Jesus, the Christ, fully God yet fully man. He, the One who gave His life for sinful man, who then ascended up, is the one spoken of here as a conquering King. For…
… Led captivity – What is the captivity that Paul speaks of? Looking back through the ages, we find ourselves in the Garden of Eden. There a decision was made by the first man and woman that has affected us throughout the eons. Not only did Adam and Eve sin, but we sinned in them. Mankind has gone on sinning, rebelling against the order and law set up by Almighty God. There is no one who is even near righteous. Because of our willing rebellion, we are in captivity to our sin, and thus, to death: for the wages of sin is death. Our flesh is in control; our sin is rampant; even when we attempt to do well, it stinks to God. We are, all our days in bondage to sin. Not only that, we are under the domain of the Enemy of God, the Devil, kept within the kingdom of darkness, from which there is no escape. Unless…
… Captive – Oh, what glory, what triumph is in these words! Taken together, when Jesus rose again and ascended, He led a glorious parade of all that held us captive. Like the conquerors of yore, He led the Slave Masters known as Sin and Death in fetters. He absolutely defeated, once and for all, the enemy of our souls, taking them in open shame. The wrath of God was poured out, and sin was atoned for; the stone before the tomb was blasted away, and death’s sting was squashed; Christ ascended upon high, and all else was put under His feet. He has led captivity captive! All that once stood over us as our masters – Lust, Envy, Pride, Anger, Fear, Anxiety, Depression, Loneliness, Bitterness, Greed, to name a few – has now been defeated. All that stood between us and our Creator has been dealt with. No more does it have power over us, for He is our Lord and Savior. But the glory does not end there…
… And he gave gifts unto men – The gifts which God has given us are numerous, perhaps greater that I can number. Principally, we have been given the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God within us. As all that stood between us and God has been removed by Jesus, God now comes and dwells within us. We have also been given the grace of God, receiving that which we do not deserve. Not only saving grace, but a working grace too: for in the context of this verse, the gifts which God has given us are gifts for ministering. Specifically named are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Not all of us are called to the same position; but we have all been given the grace of God to spread the good news of His kingdom and to build up the body of Christ. The purpose of these gifts, given to the once captive, is to set other captives free, and to strengthen the Army-Family known as the Church for the battle for the glory of God.
That poetic phrase, “He has led captivity captive”, is one that I pray I keep close. For in certain moments, it can feel that I am once again in captivity to my old masters. It seems that the fish hook of temptation is stuck deeply within my heart, and I cannot but help to obey. No longer: because of the work of God, I can take that hook out, and allow the grace of God to pull me towards Himself. For that is the goal of all this: to bring us back to Himself. He led captivity captive, that we may be captive to His grace.
Apologies for no posts in a while. I have been away, enjoying myself at youth camp, vacation, and a friend’s wedding in Colorado. Posts shall come forthwith, Lord willing.
Over the months I have been working my job (I work at a place for birthday parties), I have probably seen close to a thousand presents unwrapped. When I look into the trash cans and see the colorful array of torn paper, sometimes I think, “What a waste.”
It took a personal experience for me to understand why we love to wrap gifts. The thought hit me once more as I wrapped a gift for someone about five minutes before I left to go to their house and see them unwrap it. Since she would have it unwrapped very soon, it seemed to be just frivolous, especially since I was already in a hurry.
When she unwrapped it, however, and saw what it was, her eyes alighted and a broad smile spread across her face. A gasp escaped her lips, along with a quiet, “Wow.” That was all it took to ruin me; my pessimistic attitude towards gifts was undone. In that moment a powerful picture began to form in my mind. That tiny bit of time, in which she unwrapped the gift, contained all the emotions of wonder, joy, and gratefulness.
We wrap gifts because we want to see that moment when the recipient’s eyes light up, especially if it is entirely unexpected. Gifts express the joy of life, the bright of dawn. We cannot decide what type of gift we receive (we can, in a sense; but in the end, it is always out of our control). We do not expect to have to “pay back” anyone for a gift, though sometimes human compulsion causes us to. The only question I do not know the answer to is, who receives the greatest joy – the gifted or the giver?
As I thought about these heavenly realities, the powerful words of the apostle Paul came to mind:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Eph. 2:8-9
As I thought about that moment, filled with awe and joy, I thought back to when I realized what the grace of God truly was. A couple summers ago, I was talking to a brother about some things I was struggling with. He exhorted me in the plainest, yet most profound of ways: “Brother – you are in Christ. These things have no hold over you!” I paused; in that moment God’s Spirit came to me and showed me what His grace was for me. My friend’s words were true; sin had no more grip on me, because God had given me the gift of grace. Within me welled up joy unspeakable, and it would have been very appropriate if I had leapt up and down and done a wild jig, dancing as David before the Lord.
I am not advocating a faith based on feelings; our faith is based on the Rock of Christ, and it is immovable, no matter what our feelings may be. However, we should be profoundly affected by the gift of grace. Just think about what God has done for us. All throughout Ephesians, Paul tells us what we were without Christ’s grace:
“Dead in trespasses and sins… children of disobedience… by nature children of wrath… without Christ… aliens and strangers… without hope… without God in the world…”
We were all this and more. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened [enlivened] us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved)…”
Think with me for a moment about this great gift. When I see what it is, it fills me with deep wonder, bounding joy, and a depth of gratefulness. However, it does not end with one “unwrapping”; there is something wonderful about this gift of grace. Rather, there is something very wonderful about the Giver of this great gift: He is Eternal. When I discovered the grace of God in a new way two years ago, that was not the last time – He has brought me back to the wonders of that singular gift again and again. Because God and His grace are eternal, we can never finish with them. We must unwrap them day by day, discovering new and deeper truths than we ever have before, and living a fuller life in Christ.
And that is the goal of the gift of grace; eternal life in Christ. In His words, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).” He is our life here and now and for all eternity. He is the only Life. And because we have been brought into His grace, we can enjoy Him more and more every day.
“For the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” – John Piper
If you have not experienced the grace of God, or are simply curious about more of my thoughts on anything, please comment. I would love to hear from you.
I recently had a conversation with some friends about foul language: what defines foul language and why it is bad. I thought it would be profitable to share some of our conclusions and my own thoughts on the subject.
What defines foul language? There are few rules in the Bible that are culturally defined; adultery is adultery, no matter what your culture says about it. Language is different. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear”, he meant to them something different than it does to us; few of us curse in Greek. Nearly everything God commands is the same throughout every age: adultery is adultery, period. This issue of foul language, however, works a little bit differently.
The simple fact is that words have meaning. These meanings have changed over time and have been corrupted, to be sure. However, they have meaning to people, today. Every culture has words that are regarded with esteem, and other, crude language. Some words have originally true meanings that were not foul (one such word appears in the King James Version 90 times – I leave it to you to figure out which); others are simply crude words used to describe things in a crude way. In either regard, they are not words that in our culture “give grace to those who hear”.
Especially in our Southern-Bible-Belt culture, it can sometimes seem that foul language is a cardinal sin, worthy of capital punishment, or at least a good whippin’. However, as one of my friends pointed out that night, it does not matter how “clean” your words are. You may never say a single foul word in your life, but you will still violate the principle Paul gives us. On the other hand, someone who struggles with saying foul words could still impart great grace with their words. Neither is excused, but the one who acknowledges it is still better than the one who does not.
(As a random thought on the side, let me ask you, dear reader: is it stranger to you when a young lady utters a foul word than when a man does? It is to me, and I think it is because of the simple stark contrast between a beautiful appearance and a rotten tongue. I have often been tempted to say to such a young lady, “You know, such ugly words should not come from such a pretty face.”)
Why is it bad? The real question being asked here is, “Why does it matter?” First, because of all that I have said before. Words have meaning; they are like vessels that carry something to the recipient. We decide whether the vessels we send out smell like manure, are loaded with poison, or carry healing balms. As a writer, I understand that one small word can change the entire meaning.
More than that, however, it is because our words have great power. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. James alludes to the tongue as the spark that can start a forest fire. When we speak, write, or use language of any sort, we are always either communicating life or communicating death. The reason foul language, biting words, or a deceitful tongue are so wrong is because they are imparting death to the hearer. It is as though a deadly miasma is proceeding from your mouth, and all within inhaling distance are catching it.
C.S. Lewis reminds us in his essay “The Weight of Glory” that everyone we meet is an eternal soul. Absolutely everyone, from that man who cut us off in traffic to the sour-faced cashier at the grocery store, will live on in eternity. They are on their own journey, either progressing towards life or death. Whether they may only enter into our lives for a short frame, or they will be beside us for many years, we will are either a help or a hindrance. We either bring them up to life in Christ, or down to death. This is why language is so important, because of the destruction it can cause.
But the emphasis is not just negative. Sure, death is in the power of the tongue; but so is life! What a miracle it is, that we can impart life and grace to listening ears! Our words could be the spark that burns down their idol temples, that are a breath of fresh air in a miasma ridden world. By the grace of God, our tongues can be used to bless. That does not mean that our words will never hurt; but when they do, it will be done like a gardener’s pruning: only to bring about more and more life and fruit.
It is an oft repeated maxim, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Too often those closest to us are the victims of our cutting words, and we the unsuspecting assassins. It seems that often any type of sin can be excused so long as it was “in jest”. Let us begin with those nearest to us: parents, siblings, children, lovers, or friends; then, we shall work outward to bless the whole world. Instead of a sarcastic insult, insert a kind compliment or encouragement. It may be an unexpected treat, like finding a dollar in your pocket. Unlike the dollar, however, it will be worth far more.
I have just ordered a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappucino (say that five times fast) in a local bookstore for a little under 5 dollars. A little price to pay for the immeasurable pleasure it will bring me. From where I sit I can see the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, and numerous books fill the shelves. Each of those books have a price, some small, some large, and not necessarily based upon the size of the book. Thinking about money and prices reminded me of an unfortunate conversation I had some time ago.
I was asked by someone I was working with what I thought of a certain lady, namely, “Is she hot?” To which I responded, “It hadn’t occurred to me to think of it.” He continued on, growing a good deal more crude, eventually asking me, “Would you sleep with her for a million dollars and all the whiskey and tobacco you could desire?” (I have just had my thought stream interrupted with the arrival of my coffee – it is indeed exquisite; I may write a poem praising its virtues). I responded to his question by saying, “Well, none of those things attract me, so, no, I would not.”
He then proceeded to draw up an elaborate scenario, in which, if I did not sleep with this woman, an entire school bus of orphans would be killed. I had no clue what to say, and instead of coming back with a witty response, I simply said something like, “I don’t care to think about that” and walked away.
However, it brought some interesting thoughts to my mind. Was there any sort of price on my morals, or on my beliefs? I have heard people say in a jocular manner, “I would never do that; unless someone offered me a million dollars.” This is, of course, a ridiculous statement; who would offer anyone a million dollars to drive over a hundred on the interstate? I do understand that; but if a million dollars were truly presented, would I compromise on what I believe was right? Would you?
Or take the extreme example that my coworker gave me. Would I sin, that I might save the lives of those orphans? Thus my morality price tag would not read “$1,000,000”, but “100 Orphans”. It’s an interesting dilemma, isn’t it?
Yet often, the price tag for us is not so large. The average person is not tempted to assassinate some political giant for profit; not, often the temptations that come to us are much smaller. In a moment of passion, a young couple, who had every intention of keeping themselves chaste for their marriage, will find themselves in a compromising situation. Or a man, who had every intention of keeping his cool, will find himself in the aftermath of an outrage. Is it wrong to say that they had conditions on their morals? Subtle, but perhaps they thought, “I will keep myself chaste, unless I just feel like I can’t control myself any longer” or “I’ll keep my cool, unless this little bolt on the lawnmower won’t come off like I want it to.”
Of course, keeping yourself chaste, especially if you are young and romantically entangled with someone, consists of keeping yourself out of potentially compromising situations. These are simply the thoughts that come into my mind as I think about this issue of prices. In a sense, it goes back to what I mentioned last week, about how we are all criminals. We would never steal something in our current state; but driven to desperation, and knowing the depravity of our hearts, what crimes might we commit?
I think also of the saints and martyrs of old. There are many who have not yielded in their beliefs one inch, even to the cost of their lives. But there are also many who had a price on their beliefs. Their price tag simply read, “Threat of Death and Torture”, or something similar. They were faithful up to that moment; but like Demas, they loved the present world more. It is somewhat like Peter’s declaration in the Garden of Gethsemane: I will follow you, even to death; but when the moment came, he fled. Most of us will not be threatened with death in our lifetime (though I think we would be better people for it). Yet perhaps we should live in such a way as to expect it by dying to ourselves daily.
I think of Christ’s words to his disciples: Count the cost. Count the cost of what? Of following Jesus; of Christianity; of living a set-apart life from the world. Though we do not work for it,there is, in the truest sense, a price tag on Christianity. It reads, “Your Life”. God doesn’t just want our devotion; He wants us. All of us. In the end, it’s the only one I’ve mentioned worth paying for.