"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or to the left; remove your foot from evil" (Proverbs 4:23-27).
I took part in a conversation recently about the degree to which we are permitted to expose ourselves to the filth of the world. Many scenarios and questions were discussed...
- Many Christians such as myself would never condone or support going to a public beach or pool when so many scantily-clad and "biblically" naked people are there, and yet are we not exposed to rampant immodesty even at Wal-Mart?
- Again, many Christians such as myself would never think of stepping foot in a bar due to the establishment's primary focus on alcohol (unless perhaps it was a bathroom emergency and it was our only option), and yet isn't alcohol served in abundance at restaurants such as Applebee's and Olive Garden? Don't these restaurants even have bars in them? They do!
- And finally, many Christians such as myself would never go to see a movie that according to the previews alone contains blatant immodesty, lewdness and foul language, and yet are we not exposing ourselves to these things to some degree when we watch television?
There appear to be two extreme positions when it comes to our approach to situations like these.
On one hand, there are those who conclude that because sin is everywhere and we're exposed to it despite our best efforts to avoid it, that it's pointless to even try to avoid it. Folks in this category will use the immodesty at Wal-Mart to justify exposing themselves to the immodesty and nakedness at the heavily-populated local swimming pool. They believe that because most Christians are willing to watch television where sinful images and words are often expressed, they are therefore justified in watching the filthiest of movies at the movie theater.
On the other hand, there are those who impose their personal choices and stringent moral barriers on all Christians around them. Instead of seeing the "gray area" in all of these different categories, they want to make as many things as possible black and white. Granted, there are some black and white situations, but we have to be careful in binding where God has not bound. Wouldn't you agree?
We can debate thousands of particular scenarios and disagree on our approach to a majority of them, and while I'm always willing to express my views on any particular scenario, I believe that Solomon's advice in Proverbs is the best. And if truly applied and followed, we'll avoid many of the moral pitfalls of the world.
Christians must have moral standards. We cannot simply go with the flow and follow our heart's every desire. In our lust for entertainment, we cannot allow our choices to be governed by the movie's appeal (humor, plot, actors/actresses, etc), or by the activities' potential for fun. Solomon is very clear that we must be very cautious and deliberate in our choices.
We must keep our hearts with all diligence (vs. 23), remove from our lives sin and perversity (vs. 24-25), and give extreme thought to the choices we make and where those choices will lead us (vs. 26) so that we can stay on the straight and narrow path to heaven (vs. 26b).
While we cannot legislate our collective response in every scenario, we must have - and we must encourage our brethren to have - moral standards. And the light that guides our path is the law of God (Prov. 6:23). There are going to be a lot of activities, movies and associations that Christians would do well to avoid. Why? Because we have to? Not necessarily. But because we have a strong desire to be holy and blameless before our God.
Are your moral standards and deliberations what they ought to be?