The Lost Art of Righteousness

28 12 2009

I saw you run that red light.  By all rights, you should have found yourself lying maimed in a hospital.  Occasionally, as may have been the case here, God saves us from our own reckless rebellion, or, at least, the consequences thereof.  I know, because I’ve seen it first hand.  I, myself, should be quite dead by now.  This time, you didn’t get smashed to a bloody pulp.  Next time, if you’re lucky, you’ll land yourself with a ticket and a renewed interest in obeying the law.  God may occasionally save you from yourself, but one thing he does not do is train us to commit evil.  Once accustomed to committing a lawless act and getting away with it, we learn to repeat the deed routinely, as a matter of habit.  The fear of consequences, and even the guilt are lost to the reinforcement of the repeated act.  God won’t help that to happen, even if it kills you.

Laws are everywhere, posted on signs that nobody reads.  Those who do read the signs leave them to other people to obey.  All people think themselves above the masses and not subject to the rules.  For, the rules were made to be broken, right?  Did Christ die to save us from our sins so that we could continue sinning?  If this is the case, then churches are greatly lacking in zeal with potlucks, when they could be having orgies, instead.  No, of course not, but preachers so rarely even address the issue of common sin anymore, that congregations are beginning to believe that there is no such thing.

A couple once approached a pastor with a deep concern, saying that they believed that they were committing sin.  They had found the word “fornication” in the Bible, and they had to look it up in a dictionary to know what it meant.  As they discovered, it described their very own relationship.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;  neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
(Ephesians 5:3-7)

What’s the problem with this scenario?  The laity actually had to tell the pastor that they were sinning!  He should have been the one to tell them.  Any pastor who neglects to lay out the basics of God’s law, who omits the danger of sin is a pastor who ought to step down from his office.  What good is any other sermon if we still go to Hell for our ignorance?  The commonest of ideals running through the church, today, is that we should not judge others, or otherwise press our religion on them.  Dictatively, it may be true, but connotatively, it is a lie of the Devil.  If you see a fellow believer living with his girlfriend, and you do not at least tell him that he is committing sin, then the sin is yours, also.

At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.  “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”
(Ezekiel 3:16-21)

There is no virtue in keeping your beliefs to yourself.  If you know something to be the truth, and you do not share it, then you withhold help from those who need it; for no one uses truth to hurt themselves, but to increase their own well-being, unless they ignore or reject that truth.  If you believe in something, then you know it to be the truth.  If you hold silently to your belief, then you withhold truth from others.

While it is true that we need not force others into obedience, it is also true that we cannot be held blameless if we do not warn them.  While there is no virtue in unwilling obedience, there is no love in withholding a needed rebuke.  I neither hate the homosexual enough to injure him, nor do I hate him enough to usher him into Hell.

One of the most neglected of sins, even more than fornication, is the matter of divorce.  God has, indeed, endorsed the government’s practice of legitimizing marriage, but he has no more acceptance of civil divorce than he does of homosexual marriage.  No matter whether the government has certified your divorce, God does not recognize it, except in very select circumstances.  Those circumstances are of marital infidelity, and the matter of an unbeliever leaving a believing spouse because of that spouse’s faith.  In the vast majority of cases, that certification of divorce is just a piece of paper.  Christians get divorced so often, that one would think otherwise.  But if all they did was divorce, then it would not be nearly the problem that it is when they re-marry.

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
(Luke 16-18)

When was the last time your pastor mentioned that one?  Any congregation likely has at least a few married couples who fit this description.  It’s a test of a pastor’s faith to jeopardize his income by assigning blame to his own clients.  I wonder what he values more, the money or the truth?  In this instance, I don’t even know what a couple should do if they’ve already done this.  They cannot very well divorce and return to their first loves, at this point.

What is fornication?  It is the adultery that a person commits even before marriage.  It is a man cheating on his wife before he even marries her.  It is a woman making herself a used object, and less of a gift to the man that she does marry.

What is adultery?  It is like using someone else’s used condom, except that this condom can actually contract the disease and make more of it.  It is human filth in its vilest form.  It is betrayal.  It is harmful physically, emotionally and spiritually, not only to the one who does it, but also to the spouse that he pledged to love and protect.

No, I won’t mistreat you for your sin, but I’ll give my right eye before I’ll see you go to Hell unawares.  It tears me apart.  It eats me from the inside.  This secret is a worm that gnaws its way out of me, and I’m not eager to keep it within.  Righteousness is a lost art, vacant from the souls who used to guard it.  I will not participate in its demise.