Between The Lines

I recently had a professor march to the board and draw a rather disfigured, but large stick figure. He then drew two horizontal lines across it, one at about the navel (if a stick figure had a navel, that is) and one about halfway between its nonexistent knee and waist. With his diagram complete, he challenged us with two questions: why does it often seem that Christians spend so much energy focusing on sins in this region…and wouldn’t it be nice if all sins were sexual sins (meaning we tend to gloss over those that aren’t)?

Is this truly the case? If so, why? Do we focus a disproportionate amount of time, worry, effort, and moral lectures on sexual sins? Of course abortion, teenage pregnancy, out-of-wedlock sex, pornography, and the like are sins which wreak destruction upon lives. However, what does greed do? Or selfishness? Pride? Anger? Envy? Do these sins cause any less destruction? Do they need any less attention?

How much did Christ teach on sexual sins? A pretty generous count would total only seven occurrences (and four of those are repetitive, each forbidding divorce except in cases of adultery). In contrast, how often does he speak on the self-righteousness of the Pharisees? What about caring for the poor? What about generosity and greed? These are issues that Jesus and the authors of the four gospels deemed quite important, judging by the amount of ink spilled. And yet, if we were to write a Christian code of conduct off the top of our heads, do you think we’d speak so much on pride, self-righteousness, and greed, and so little on sex?

Often, in Christian youth circles there is a lot of fuss made of what I call (tongue firmly in cheek, mind you) the Big Three: Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol. And, in all fairness I’ve seen sex, partying, drugs, and alcohol devastate the lives of numerous teens. So, don’t hear me say it isn’t important or that we shouldn’t be acutely concerned with it. However, if you were to pin me down to giving one area of sin that I think is most destructive in the lives of teens today, it wouldn’t be any of the Big Three. It would be either selfishness or materialism.

So, let’s turn the tables on ourselves. You know, the mature, wise Christians, those who wouldn’t struggle with the petty things teens struggle with today. What are our “respectable sins?” (A term borrowed from a book by Jerry Bridges). Because none of us would struggle with selfishness, pride, or greed.

Oh, wait…that’s exactly what we struggle with. It seems a lot more fun to play golf every weekend rather than spend quality time with your family. After all, you worked 50 hours this week, dang it, and you deserve some “me time” (selfishess). You’re awfully quick to become angry at someone, when they’ve done or said something you would never do or say (pride, anyone?). Materialism? Please, that’s kid stuff. But isn’t it the case that sometimes you think there is something you’re missing: a newer car, a bigger house, a better wardrobe, a new computer, etc., etc.? That last missing piece that would give you happiness and fulfillment (and there’s materialism and greed)?

If you’re anything like me, you can relate to the previous paragraph, because we’re not really past those sins either. An old friend of mine was fond of saying, “We’re all junior highers at heart…we’ve just learned to hide it better.” How about that for a dose of humility?

I see this impacting us in three ways. First, in our personal lives we will no longer be able to ignore the more respectable sins in our lives as long as we’re not involved in the “big ones.” Second, it should impact how we spend our money and effort. You see, now it’s not just abortion and abstinence programs that need our assistance. It’s also the programs that care for impoverished children or protect the environment. And third, I think this should affect our politics. Who says that abortion is the most important issue Christians should consider when voting? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t bat an eye at voting pro-choice, what I’m saying is that we have to look at other issues as well. Things like health care reform, welfare policy, and global warming need our attention, too. And there’s no rule in the Bible that Christians must always vote Republican without exception.

Once again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. Pornography is terribly destructive. Adultery and lust wreak havoc in our hearts and in our families. Abortion is literally the ending of a life, and should not be treated as anything less. But don’t let these sins turn our focus from the seemingly smaller ones. Don’t let pride slip by just because you don’t cheat on your spouse. Don’t let greed go unchecked just because you are pro-life. Because God forbids all sins for a reason, not just those “between the lines.”

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