Monday, December 14, 2020

What Would It Take?

By Adam Faughn

    When I was growing up, one of our odd family traditions happened on Christmas Day. If we were going to be anywhere near a Wal-Mart, we would drive by, just to see it totally empty. Of course, with coronavirus, you can drive by any night and see the store empty, but, at the time, it was so odd to see the parking lot totally empty of cars and no people going in and out of the store. It sort of made you wonder, what would it take to shut down a store, other than some type of natural disaster or other frightening situation?
    A Wal-Mart store in Oklahoma recently got a more humorous answer to that question when they had to shut down midday for a little while, but it was not because people were in any danger of being hurt by some storm or an active shooter, or anything of that sort. It was because they were in danger of not smelling very good, as a skunk some-how wandered into the store and was seen in the men's shoe department.
    Think about that for a moment: it takes a dangerous situation--or one where people are concerned about leaving with a serious stench on them--to close those huge retail stores. It just makes me wonder, how much does it take or us, spiritually, to wake up and realize when we are needing to shut something down that is pulling us away from God?
    Too many people soften Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount, but they are a powerful reminder of how seriously we should take sin:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 7:29-30)

    In the immediate context (see verse 28), Jesus was speaking about the allure of sexual lust. Certainly, our Lord was not advocating dismembering our body to avoid temptation. Many people make sure to mention that, but too few stop there and fail to see just how seriously Jesus was telling us to take avoiding temptation. Whatever it is that is tempting us needs to be put away from us!
    When it comes to temptation, we need to avoid it with everything we have. But how many of us see how close we can get to temptation instead of how far away we can get from it? Is that not a major part of the point Jesus was making in this section of that famous sermon? He was basically saying that, yes, adultery is wrong, but so is allowing ourselves to be drawn into the sin of the heart, which is sexual lust. He would say similar things about hatred and murder, retaliation, and other subjects in this sermon.
    His point was that we need to recognize sin from the outset and not give it one tiny inch of our heart. If we fail to do that, we will be going on a road that will lead further into a harder heart and further sin. When we fill our minds with filth, how can we claim to be keeping ourselves pure for the service of the Lord?
    I am very glad that I was not at that Wal-Mart in Oklahoma when that skunk was found. More than that, I am glad I was not the one who spotted it! But I have to believe that the decision to evacuate the store, while not easy, was made very quickly because of the awkwardness of it, and also because of what it could have led to. If that skunk had, well, done its thing, can you imagine the clean-up it would have taken to so much of the store (and possibly the clothes of customers and workers)? So, clearing out the store, even though it probably cost the store some sales in the short-term, was a fairly easy decision. It made the long-term far easier to deal with because the issue was taken care of as soon as it was noticed.
    Deciding to avoid sin –whether, through certain relationships (including online friendships), movies we watch, the music we listen to, websites we visit, and more –may mean that we miss out on some things the world does. We may not know all the latest trends or have seen all the blockbusters. We may not feel as if we fit in at school or with our coworkers.
    But we also will not have to have a heart and mind filled with things that are keeping us from the purity of following God. We will be closer to Him and ready to give Him our all. What will it take for us to realize that?

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers. (Psalm 1:1)
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

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