April 01, 2007

Christianity And Selective Righteousness

It's a post that's been on my mind for a while now, and tonight is the night to have time to finally do it justice. If you're going to read this post, please read it all the way through. Don't pick one of my first lines, dismiss it, and then quit reading because you've prejudged what I'm going to say.

My text for the post is found in Luke 5: 27-30:

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If you right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell"
We have here one of the most classic texts on Jesus providing crippling insight into the nature of our sin. The Jews had one definition of adultery - actually finding a woman in the act with another man. Jesus had another - even looking at her with lustful thoughts. And lest you think this wasn't that big of a deal, the penalty for this sin in their time was death by stoning. So we're not talking about "no big deal".

As I pondered this text, I have thought back to many situations in my life where I have "witnessed" Christians having selective righteousness. Christians who condemned others for "using profanity", "drinking alcohol", "smoking", "homosexuality" etc....

And then this passage opened up to me. Jesus basically said, if you allow what your eyes see, to influence what your mind thinks, and that thought is contradictory to my word, then it is sin. Follow the flow in the passage. A) Beautiful woman is noticed B) Image of beautiful woman fed to the brain. C) Image found pleasurable by the brain D) Pleasure processed by the soul E) Soul engaged and corrupted although body not engaged to act. F) Jesus calls it adultery nonetheless.

And I pondered the ramifications of what "media" and "television" are doing to Christianity today. Here is the link to the weekly Nielsen TV Ratings. As of the writing of this post here were 5 shows among the Top 20:
  • Greys Anatomy
  • Til Death
  • Two And a Half Men
  • Lost
  • Ugly Betty

For the sake of making my point and yet being relatively brief, and I think I could make them with all of them, read this link to Episode 19 of Greys Anatomy.

In that episode recap, we have:
A) Sex Outside Of Marriage
B) Drunken Intoxication
C) Couples blowing off arguments for appearance sake
D) Co-Habitation
E) Cut Throat Competition For Job
F) Pregnancy Without Knowing The Father
G) Us Choosing Our Appearance
H) Agreeing To Marriage As Long As It's Not Religious

The list goes on. And this is just one episode. In one of three seasons. And it's the highest rated of the five shows listed above. Why do I point this out and what in the world does this have to do with "selective righteousness"...

Imagine the following situations and what your reaction would be:
  • Your local pastor uses multiple "profanities" from the pulpit on Sunday Morning
  • Your youth pastor is caught in a "sexual" relationship before he is married
  • Your staff member at your ministry is pulled over for a DWI
  • Your daughter tells you she's pregnant and she doesn't know who the father is

Most reactions would be of "horror", "disappointment", "anger", "distrust". Most of the people in the above situations would be cast out of their ministries. Lost forever would be the opportunity to be of use for the Gospel. They would be "labeled" as folks who hadn't finished strong. They would bear our reproach and our shame and our judgement.

Now picture Jesus saying to you: "But I say to you, that everyone who looks a television with voluntary intent, and receives such images and messages as "entertainment" has already committed the same sin". That is essentially what he said about adultery, and I think that is what he would say to the millions of Christians today who sit in front of their televisions and take in "voluntarily" messages, entertainment, and media expressly in opposition the Word of God.

There is no difference between engaging in adulterous intercourse and deriving pleasure or entertainment from watching television containing "sexual messages, connotations, or situations depicted outside of marriage". There is no difference between drinking to intoxication and laughing at the jokes of a man depicted to be drunk and hungover on television. The list goes on and on.

And before you call me a fundamental legalist, let me say that turning off the television WILL NOT make you holier before God. You could go the rest of your life without watching a television and still stand condemned before God. The issue is not the act or will of NOT watching television.

The issue is: Are you dealing with your own sin and do you realize that when Jesus breathed the words of the passage above, he brought into play the "passive, voluntary, and received things you see and hold onto" as sins equal to the real act. If you see drunks on TV and receive that with pleasure, the a drunk you might as well be. If you see sex outside of marriage on TV and think the depicted characters are cool, the sexually promiscious and immoral you might as well be.

So before you as a Christian, jump on a person who committed a sin in a physical act, understand Jesus has an entirely different sphere for realms of sin. Sins of thought and invisible will are as condemning and estranging to your relationship with God as sins that are physically carried out. Remember that the next time you turn on the radio or television and then wonder to yourself and ponder the fact that it might just be the reason your communion with God has been so poor.

More to come in the upcoming days and months on this topic.

No comments: