The Look

A little over a year ago, I helped move my mother-in-law from her residence to an assisted living facility.  Part of the process involved a yard sale of non-essential items.  You know the kind of yard sale.  While you don’t get the worth of the items, you are grateful to get anything at all.  We, actually, did rather well considering, of course, that we didn’t pay ourselves.  It’s passing strange and a little bittersweet to see a life reduced to monetary concerns and temporal items.  As individuals came and went in the course of the day, I was able to indulge in people-watching, a favorite pastime of mine.  It’s interesting to me that everyone looks different.  Beyond that, each life has an importance all its own and each individual a story to tell.

There were a number of Amish and Mennonite communities near the residence.  A few women from the Amish population stopped by our sale that afternoon.  Now, according to their custom, unacquainted males and females do not engage in direct interaction, including eye contact, to any significant degree.  One of the women was a little older and did most of the talking for the group.  While the others were polite and pleasant, they were not very conversive and averted, for the most part, their glances contact.  For most people (myself included), these constraints in behavior seem extreme.  Our society places few restraints on the libertine.  But be honest.  Do not many unethical behaviors begin with a look?

Here is the point which many people today (including professed Christians) miss.  Our ultimate actions grow from inconspicuous beginnings.  In some cases, it is nearly impossible to divine the exact point at which we began to stray.  All we can say is that, somewhere, we lost our footing and finally fell.  Here a little and there a little, we drifted unknowing and ended in shipwreck on an unseen reef.  Decrying the legalism of avoidance, we danced too close to the flame, spurning all cautionary tales.  Discretion is hard to come by, but it is easy to disdain a person who takes a good point too far, not realizing that in our self-actualization we forget the good and worthy principles upon which ethical behavior stands.

It is simply truth that a Christ-follower should abstain and avoid certain behaviors.  It is also a practical truth that care should be taken in some endeavors which may not be intrinsically wrong themselves.  The matter of where an exercise is likely to lead is a concern for those who would be wise.  In addition, there is the issue that a person’s actions affirm or deny in the eyes of others what they deem to be virtuous.  This used to be called “testimony.”  I, recently, heard a man (with whom I roundly disagree) say on television that we are condoning and promoting the agendas of those for whom we vote.  I know this principle has some exceptions, but I’ve been saying that for decades.  We affirm by our actions.

Scripture encourages us to embrace certain things.  These ideals have positive and negative repercussions in our lives.  In other words, they add to us and detract from us.  When we choose to live a certain way, we deny living another way.  Though none of us live virtues to the greatest degree, when we cleave to the right, we lose grip on the wrong and conversely.  We cannot live in comfort in two places at once.  Paul testified of the life-long struggle for godliness, and we should expect no less.  We will not be successful with unguarded existences.  It is possible to make an overstatement of illegality or ethics through unwarranted avoidance.  On the other hand, universal acceptance makes a statement, as well.   

Sterl

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