Sometimes different things get mixed up and start swirling around together in such a way that makes them dangerous. They can get so out of hand, in fact, that they wind up tearing lots of stuff up while standers-by watch, wide-eyed and gasping with their hands over their mouths. If you could pretend for a moment that separating the debris from the wind in a tornado would render it harmless, that would go a long way in helping me to explain what I want you to understand here. For the truth is, in a lot of different things that seem to bring confusion, if we could separate the parts that make them that way, it might bring clarity. In short, we need to be able to look at the whirlwind while discerning the dust from the wind. I have learned that it is possible to train oneself to do this. If I could teach you to do the same, perhaps I can help save you from some confusion, or at least to better understand the confusion that you will be finding yourself emersed in.
The difficulty in getting this across is first and foremost a difficulty of words, for I must attempt to explain it well enough, and with enough examples to get you started, while at the same time not bore you too much. So, in order to attempt that, I’ll simply move right into a few kinds of examples of what I’m talking about:
Education and morality -I was working with a man recently who told me that his 16-year-old step-son was living alone in another state. So I asked him how the boy was coming along without adult oversight? He answered by telling me that the young man was making good grades. But that didn’t answer my question. He was confusing good grades with morality. You will find this to be quite a common thing.
As for me, I’ve seen news reports where young people have gotten into terrible trouble. The response from those who knew the wayward young man was all too common. They always seem to be shocked. And, they’re shocked because, after all, the kid did make good grades. You are living in a culture that idolizes education, and as such, I think it may be a little challenging for it to separate its little god of education from its morality. So when you are older, know your children’s heart as much as you are able. Don’t confuse their smartness, or their accumulated knowledge, with their goodness. And remember that really smart people can be really evil too, while mental slowness is by no means a sign of a moral handicap. I’m personally thankful for that one.
Another similar thing to education that gets mixed up with morality is health. I asked a woman once why she thought her daughter’s fiance was a good man for her. She seemed as though she had been caught off guard by the question. It was as if the thought had never occurred to her. After thinking a bit she finally said that it was because he was healthy. “Oh”, I said. Still, many others confuse beauty with morality. But probably worse than anything else along these lines is the confusing of feelings with morality, as in, if it feels good, it’s moral. But all of these are totally separate things and should be discerned from each other when deciphering the realities that whirl about you.
The institutionalization of sin – As I write this we await what might be the greatest spectacle of hubris ever put on display by man. Nine judges are going to decide if a square can be a circle. Of course, that’s not what they’re really deciding, but it might as well be because deciding whether or not a man can marry another man is equally as absurd. Of course, the court’s decision will have no bearing on reality, but rather it can only succeed in changing the meaning of a word: “marriage”. It will also determine in many ways whether or not we will be a nation that plans on living in reality or a fantasy land.
But be that as it may, the Church has for some time been in a difficult place concerning such cause-celeb sins of our day, only because so many in its midst have not separated the debris from the wind. As is typical, there are many things that are happening at the same time that must be understood separately if they are to be understood together. For example here are two things that work together. On the one hand, Jesus clearly taught His followers to love their neighbors as themselves. And I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not mean to exclude those who practice a certain sin as being our neighbor. But, on the other hand, there are political movements afoot that are much greater than any one individual, and we must not confuse a single person with a collective political movement, even if that poor soul is part of the movement. Nor should we give the movement a pass for the sake of any one individual. These movements appear to have as their goal the wiping away of all vestiges of God, family, and Church as the Bible defines them; preferring instead to redefine them in ways that are more malleable and palatable. They approach, under the cover of compassion, and they seem to only be requesting from the Church what Jesus commanded of it anyway. But Jesus also taught that the Church is the light in this world. He never taught us to have compassion for political movements that seek as their end to, not only justify sin, but to force all to accept it. Sadly, many Christians bristle at the suggestion that there should be any resistance to these movements because they are simply unable to differentiate between resisting collective evil and loving an individual caught up in that evil.
We are to preach the Gospel to the individual, which includes repentance and forgiveness. We are to shine a light into dark places in this world, which we know will cause it to hate us, and our Savior. But Jesus tells us that some will repent and become redeemed children of God. We are to be the very hands of God, pulling individuals from the torrents of collective evil, and not fearing what man thinks of us for daring to call those torrents evil.
Judging others – Sin destroys. So, we have on the one hand your sin. And then on the other we have my sin. And the two are similar things in that they both destroy. But they are different things too, in that we are two different human beings. When a loved one calls us out on our sin we have a choice. We can feel attacked, and we can make counter-accusations, or we can listen and consider what they say. In choosing the former, however, we cause a destructive whirlwind. If I, your father–or someone else who is a friend–points out sin in your life, it is a loving thing for them to do and you ought to see it as such. It is foolish to evade such love by accusing them of “judging” you because they themselves are not without sin. If anyone wants to discuss the sin in my life, let us do so. There is much to discuss. But let us not discuss my sin at the same time that we discuss theirs. One person’s sin does not make another’s sin okay.
If we dare not help each other pick the splinters from our eyes, we will end up both blinded, and the best we could ever hope for is to not wander into a pit. Blinded is where much of Christendom lives today, but you don’t have to live there. Thank the brother who loves you enough to hold you accountable. And don’t be afraid to love others enough to hold them accountable. It is important to understand that no one else’s sin makes your sin not sin. Desire to live righteously. Ask the one who points out your sin to help you overcome it as you help others in any way you can to overcome theirs.
So here I have given you just a few examples of how some things that would otherwise confound can be better understood. I hope that you will train yourself to disassemble them and grasp and interact with their component parts separately. If you work on thinking in this way it will become your second nature, and you will be all the wiser for it. I pray that you would grow in this area.