Up to this point we’ve been talking about the way in which someone is intentionally stacking the deck against themselves by accommodating dynamics that make it easier to disobey their Heavenly Father.
It can be both frustrating and confusing when you’re listening to someone defend what you intutively recognize as a sinful concession, yet you can’t quite find the words or connect the biblical dots necessary to formulate a decisive sounding rebuttal because of the way that person can seemingly validate their actions by insisting they’re not “doing” anything wrong.
You’re Not Being Fair
It becomes even more exasperating when they insert the idea that anyone who would be critical of their behavior is being legalistic and intolerant. This just adds to the challenge of articulating a compelling sounding argument by virtue of the way the substance of your platform is immediately compromised because of how your listening audience is now hearing you as being insensitive and unfair, thus making your opponent look as though they’re being victimized. Once that aspect has been successfully installed into the debate, the conversation is no longer about the defendant’s choices, rather it’s about the plaintiff’s motives and the innocence of the accused is taken for granted.
But however a person wants to justify themselves by insisting that they’re not actually being disobedient, despite the way in which they’re making it easier on themselves to disobey, they’re not really defending their actions as much as they’re trying to distract attention away from them, and instead create the impression that all that needs to be evaluated is a mindset that can’t be classified as corrupted without getting into some subjective territory.
In that way they’re able to insulate themselves from any condemnation let alone criticism by positioning themselves as a victim of an unfair assessment, either in the context of unnecessarily strict standards or a biased perspective that’s intent on reading something into a situation that isn’t there.
You Pointed it at Your Foot
But that line of defense doesn’t really work if the action itself can be objectively categorized as a concession regardless of the intent. In order to shoot yourself in the foot, you first had to choose to load the gun and then aim it in the direction of your toes. Neither one of those two actions represent moral infractions in and of themselves, but they’re revealed as being contemptible when they’re processed as necessary parts of a sequence leading up to the wound and the pain you’re now having to contend with.
James 1 breaks it down like this: Desire -> Temptation -> Sin (Jas 1:13-15). You can think of it as: Thoughts -> Plans -> Actions.
However subjective the “planning” stage may be from a human standpoint, it is nevertheless addressed specifically in Scripture as a place where sin is being committed when you purposely set yourself up to fail (Gen 4:7; Prov 4:23; Matt 25:26-28; Rom 13:14; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-9).
Being in the presence of decadence and compromise is sometimes unavoidable. And if you’re going to be salt and light, then you’ve got to interact with some dark characters (Matt 5:13-16; 10:16). But there’s a distinction between the person who’s determined to make a difference as opposed to the person who’s simply making an excuse.
If you’re not actively resisting the devil, then you’re cooperating with him…
…and that’s a sin.
But here’s the thing…
Who’s In Charge?
When you’re determined to honor the One Who established the boundary, then you’re not as tempted to test the boundary. Those who see Scripture and the Christian doctrine as a collection of “rules” are choosing to ignore the Love, the Grace and the Power of the One Who put those rules in place and instead declare themselves as their own bottom line.
They are in charge.
And because they are resolved to maintain themselves as their own absolute, they will forever process those restrictions as rules that need to be resisted rather than as tools that give them an advantage.
You first have to get to the place where you see God for Who He is. Not as a purveryor of punishments, but as the Source of the kind of Life you want to live and enjoy (Jn 10:10).
And more than that, while you don’t want to discount what He has to offer in the way of Purpose, Peace and Power, it’s not so much what you can get as much as it’s simply Who He is.
In the words, of Thomas: “My Lord and my God (Jn 20:28).”
This is why, regardless if you’re talking to someone that you’re concerned about because of the way they’re seemingly walking too close to the edge, or a person’s whose political convictions or cultural perspectives are leaning towards things that are contrary to what’s biblical – however logical and beneficial the approach you would champion may be – it’s ultimately a spiritual struggle and if a genuine transformation is going to occur, it has to happen from the inside out (Eph 6:12).
This is why, while it’s important and absolutely necessary to be able to argue effectively and be able to “give a reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet 3:15),” it’s God and God alone Who makes that difference and we need to be sure we’re not just stating the facts, but also staying on our knees and praying for the Real Power and the Real Life to show up and faciliate what amounts to Real Change.