Apr 10 2012
The Myth of Private Sin

A friend of mine did smething really, really bad a couple years ago.  Real bad.  Not illegal bad, but...bad enough it's followed him, years later. It showed up on page two of a metro newspaper, a thousand miles away from where he did it.

I love this guy. He's fun, smart, and fairly new to Christian belief.  He's accepted responsibility for what he did, and he's had to live with it every day.  He told me the other day he was sorry even I was having to deal with it now. "I'm amazed how many people this has affected.  One stupid, wrong decision I made and it keeps affecting so many people.  My wife, my kids...it just keeps going."

And so it does.

We marveled at that, and, just stood there, quietly, just shaking our heads.  Amazing?  Yes.  But not really surprising.

The older I get, the more convinced I am there is no private sin.  They don't all wind up on page two, but the surface of the pond is never undisturbed by the pebble. The ripples move well beyond ourselves, and, in many cases they radiate through generations. 

Or, another recent example:  One day, you're a minister getting in a quick ego-stroking flirt, thinking you're in some kind of private soap opera...and soon, there are 300 people in a flourescent-lit room, on metal folding chairs, discussing what you did.  And they're cautioning each other not to judge you, and then they talk some more about what you did.

And then, some little kid, one you don't even know, has to hear some stranger talking in church about how the pastor-guy won't be back, he did something called "sexual misconduct."  

Yeah, your soap opera?  It wasn't private.

Sins on the computer aren't private.  Larry Ellison, from Oracle, said years ago: If you think he doesn't know what's on your hard drive, you're kidding yourself. Like the Huffington Post wrote recently: "Google knows you better than you know yourself." Don't kid yourself. 

But even if they didn't know, the sins in your head aren't private.  Mine affect my attitude.  They keep me from being concerned about other people.  They make me a jerk, in seemingly unrelated ways.  ("Why's Brant a jerk?"  "Probably something seemingly unrelated.")

There is no "private sin". Turns out few things have done more harm than the "do no harm" ethic.  The as-long-as-it-doesn't-hurt-anyone-else construction of morality is built atop the swamp of affluence. We afford this lie, because affluence loves not only privacy, but the fantasy of it. But like the 77's said, "The lust, the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life -- drain the life right out of me."

And then, when the life is drained out of me... I'm not the person I'm supposed to be. I'm less creative. I'm less joyful. I have less social energy. My patience is gone. I care less about my neighbors. Let me make this clear: There is no sin that affects only you.

Private rebellion.  Public consequence.  And if it seems unfair that what my friend did was so horrible, but what you or I do in our minds is somehow not so horrible -- well, you agree with Jesus. There IS no difference.

The ripple metaphor works.  There's a better one, really, for what our "private" sins do to one another, but I don't want to gross you out with a picture of a fan being hit by organic material. I have higher standards than that. Plus, I googled for a full five minutes and couldn't find one.

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Nov 10 2011
Memo to Ourselves: Don't Idolize People

Don't idolize people.


No one. Not football coaches. Not politicians. Not TV personalities. Not athletes. Not movie stars.  Not musicians.

Shoot, let's name names:  Don't worship Joe Paterno. And don't idolize Tim Tebow. Or Billy Graham. Or Bono. Or Chris Tomlin, or Steve Jobs, or Mercy Me, or Albert Pujols or Kirk Cameron or Stephen Hawking or Casting Crowns or John MacArthur or Francis Chan or Joel Osteen or Barack Obama or Whoever the Republican Nominee Will Be.

Don't worship dead humans, either.  Don't idolize Mother Teresa or Ronald Reagan or C.S. Lewis.

Don't idolize your preacher. Ever. Or your cool worship leader. They're sinners, they tend toward self-centeredness, and your idolatry will destroy them.  

Don't worship your spouse. Ever. Or your mom or dad.  

This is because they are humans. Humans are not to be made into idols.  Idolatry first blinds people, then leaves a wake of victims, wondering why no one seemed to see what was so obviously there.

You don't have to be a freak to engage in this. Normal people do it. And when idols are toppled, we deny, we lash out, and sadly, we wind up looking like the fools we have become.

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Sep 11 2011
Some (Seriously) Mature Reading Material, and a Plea for Advice

I got this email, and, over time, many like it.  She'll remain anonymous:

A listener, in her early 20s, confronted her boyfriend with what she found in his online "history" record. She was very surprised. And very disappointed.

She talked to him about it, but he said it wasn't his, without offering explanation. Then he said he was sorry she was hurt, but -- curiously -- would still not acknowledge that he had accessed the websites in question. She's sadly, and completely, convinced he's not being honest.

She wanted to talk more about it, and even felt sorry for him (she realizes this is an issue for almost all men, at least at the temptation level), but he was angrily unwilling to deal with it.

She likes him, of course. But her question was this:  Given this situation, should she continue a marriage-track-type relationship with him?

Your thoughts...?  Humble advice, perhaps borne of experience, is welcome.