How can we condemn something if we don’t know first hand what’s wrong with it?
Heavy, you say!
But let me wrestle with you for a few minutes with this problem that probably has caused some degree of consternation in your life already.
We are surrounded with evil on every side. This is so, not because evil is in things themselves. We can look at the beauty of the sunshine in creation, or we can focus our eye upon the people that are close about us; we can consider our communities, our work, etc. Now, there is no evil in any of these by themselves. Rather, evil is a matter of the heart and our inner self. What we do with them determines good or evil. Since many around us do wickedly with many of God’s good gifts, these evil acts surround us. Also, since we have an evil nature these evil acts have a direct appeal to our sinful desires. And of course, behind all of this is the old devil who would like to destroy our faith and cause us to be swallowed up in the cesspool of corruption by denying God and wallowing in moral depravity.
The question we face is this, can we know evil without experiencing it? Must we become involved in the sin itself before we can really understand the horrible nature of that sin? Isn’t it true that the more we experience the horror of sin, the more we will be able to live holy lives unto God, simply because we have tasted the bitterness of sin and thereby appreciate the sweetness of the gospel?
Obviously we tred on precarious ground, so we must proceed carefully.
There are some who counsel with youth and say, yes, there is a measure of truth in this that we should recognize. Young people should to some degree come into contact with the terrible reality of sin in order that they may learn to flee from it.
You young people are curious; probably that too is a sign of youth. You ask, what’s it all about? This same curiosity carries over into the realm of sin; what’s it all about? How bad really are the movies, what goes on during the programs when the warning sign comes on the television informing the viewers that the content of the following program has material that may be considered unfit for children. What happens when you drink a few cans of beer or trip out with some drug? The anticipation of the forbidden produces a strong urge.
It doesn’t take much effort to rationalize approval. You are going to the movies (X-rated or not), to find out for yourself what is wrong. You are going to sneak away for a few hours with that slick paperback to judge for yourself what’s considered to be porno. You aren’t approving any of this, you are simply finding out for yourself what’s wrong with it. It could be an escapade to the sleazy night spot where the blast of rock fills the air and the place stinks of whisky and thick-tongued people dance obscenely together. This too is an “educational experience.” Where do we stop? Do we go to the strip to gamble? Do we sneak to the brothel and spend time with a whore? Is that to be considered educational too?
The reasoning that the more we come into direct contact with sin the more we are able to reject it is devilish.
Yet, there are plenty of “Christian” ministers, “Christian” youth directors, “Christian” teachers, that brazenly advocate just this. Some assign the reading of bold pornography; others take young people to see the “Exorcist”; still others get heretics into their youth groups to “expose the young people to different views.” Coffee houses are great for this, you can get any combo group to sing, any person that wants to spin his philosophy, any movie, all to educate.
But, you say, what’s wrong with this?
Consider a few things. First, God’s Word emphasizes so often that we must abhor sin, never use it for a supposed good end. Are we wiser than God? The Bible says, “Flee fornication,” I Cor. 6:18. The Heidelberg Catechism explains that such an exhortation does not simply mean the act of sexual intercourse outside of marriage, but also “whatever can entice men thereto,” Question 109. We as young people must hate evil; we must realize it is like a fire that destroys; and, if we take fire into our bosom, we cannot help but be burned. I’m sure that if we are honest with ourselves, the reasoning that would justify our deliberately coming into contact with evil with the idea of learning to hate it, is nothing more than pretense. We want to justify satisfying our evil curiosity. That too is sin before God. Secondly, we don’t have to experience sin in order to know it to be sin. That’s nonsense. The Bible describes all sin for us in clear detail and we don’t have to think that we cannot really know it to be sin unless we experience it. I suppose that would mean that we cannot know the horror of murder until we killed someone; and who wants to believe that? Finally, if we deliberately play with sin, even under false pretense, God will hold us responsible for that. Today, a person can’t go innocently to the theatre, visit the night club, spend time with the fast crowd without permanently being affected. Exposure to sin leaves scars, terrible ones. We have a sinful nature and if we expose ourselves to that which our sinful nature craves and inwardly desires, how can we know that we will not be drawn into the cesspool of corruption and never return? Our depraved wills are passionate for gratification. Our Christian calling is not to satisfy our curiosity, but to turn from it and flee away.
There were people in Paul’s time who reasoned the same way, they said, “Let us sin that grace may abound,” Rom 6:1. In other words, let’s taste the terrible ways of sin in order that we may rejoice more in grace. Paul’s answer, “God forbid, how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
Perhaps we might react to this attitude and say, no, we do not want to become participants in sin, but we want to see in others and become aware of the sad consequence of sin in their lives so that we will be better able to turn away from it for ourselves. What’s wrong with that? We are interested in seeing to what extent man has developed in sin, not in becoming participants in their sins.
We might even grow a little impatient and retort, you mean to say that we have to flee from every expression of sin in others? Why that’s impossible! We can’t help it if others engage in sinful acts, and we might be better for it if we observe closely how sin changes their lives. To do otherwise would mean that we hide our heads in the sand and act like the proverbial ostrich and try to avoid the world around us. Is ignorance of evil bliss? Movies and books as well as worldly places give us this information.
In answer to this let me observe first of all that we surely must be spiritually alert to observe the affect of sin upon people, whether they be Christians or unbelievers. It is important for us to be keen observers of the Scriptural reality that the wages of sin is death. This God has said from the beginning and Paul has confirmed. Just pay attention to the ungodly neighbor, talk to the unbeliever who works with you in the shop, observe the difference between the Christian and the ungodly when they face “tragedy” in their lives, sickness or death. See the fruits of faith in distinction from the rebellion of the natural man. Take good note and judge for yourself whether faith makes a difference or not. You do this carefully and I am sure that you will thank God for your salvation and feel a deep sense of pity for the unbeliever who remains in the wretched condition of sin and hopelessness.
This does not mean however, that we have to pry curiously into the hidden recesses of the depraved soul to see how terrible it really is. It doesn’t mean that we have to make a case study to determine how far the wicked fall. That could be very dangerous. Let me illustrate. You could very well make a study of Satanism. The more you study the more you learn about horrible things. Do you, however, have to know all that goes on at their meetings in order to conclude that it is wicked and that we must condemn every form of Satanism? There are things that go on that shock the sensitive soul. Many things that couldn’t even be written in a paper such as the Standard Bearer. Sexual perversion, self abuse, murder that makes one tremble before God. Do we have to know these details? I say, God spare us; we don’t have to attend these meetings or see movies to be shocked and bruised of spirit; no, we know enough that we should stay as far away from them as possible.
Furthermore, there are some children of God who have gone through the terrible depths of depravity and become converted by God’s grace. We might ask why? Surely, this happens. There are dope addicts, drunkards, criminals, unbelievers, heretics, who are delivered from a life of sin and brought to the knowledge of faith in Jesus Christ. We do best to listen to them. All warn that the life of sin is a living hell and that we must flee anything that might even tempt us to experiment with such evil. We do not have to encounter the sad experience of sin in order to learn evil; we are also able to learn of such evil from those who have been delivered from it. If this conversion is truly of Christ, they will not brag of their past life and go into all kinds of details concerning their former life; they will simply warn. This too is under the guidance of God whereby he leads all His children in the way of repentance and faith unto everlasting glory.
Finally, the best antidote for overcoming evil is to dwell upon the pages of Holy Writ. If we truly understand this, we will also realize that there is no vacuum created by such a view of life. Surely we must flee from every form of evil; we must not curiously pry into the lives of the ungodly to learn how bad things really are. We can best leave this alone and not be enticed with every form of abomination. But, doing this, we must do more. We must fill our souls with the knowledge of God’s Word. The Bible exposes sin to the full, but it also directs us to our positive calling as children of God. We must reject the devil not only, but we must at the same time draw nigh unto God, James 4:7, 8. Instead of spending so much time examining the evil that is in the world, we can far better spend that time being instructed and encouraged in the truths of God’s Word. In the pages of that Word we will learn to see sin as God wants us to see it and then repent; not glory in it, not be enticed by it; but, to hate it and to turn away from it day after day. We also will then see God’s holy law, spelled out so clearly upon the pages of that Word. With the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we will come to understand what is our calling in this world and walk positively in God’s will.
It is in the pages of the Scripture that we are taught that sex is created by God to be used in the service of God and not for sinful pleasure. In the Bible we learn that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and thus must be cared for as one cares for God Himself. In the Bible we are guided into the paths, of truth so that our faith is expressed in harmony with God’s revelation. That same Bible shows us good works and directs our feet upon the paths of righteousness.
Do we need an advocate for the devil? Do we have to allow someone to show us the depths of sin and tempt us thereby, in order really to learn to abhor sin? Are we going to let the devil have time with us, pleading his cause and trying to deceive us?
Let’s answer with a resounding, no!
We need the Holy Spirit of God to guide us into His truth. Herein is liberty and life everlasting.