INTRODUCTION – YOU MEAN IT MAY NOT BE WRONG…
If It Isn’t Clear? – I go even further back than that. Ten years after The Great War, as we used to call it. Before we knew enough to number them. You miss that kind of action, sir? No, I miss that kind of clarity. (Wabash/Houseman and Higgins/Robertson – Three Days of the Condor)
If You Don’t Get Caught? – Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth? (Turner/Redford – Three Days of the Condor)
If It’s A Gray Area? – You are such a boy scout. You see everything in black and white. No, no, no! Not black and white Ritter, right and wrong! (Ritter and Ryan/Ford – Clear and Present Danger)
If… – What are some other ways that we question the authority of whatever is right and whatever is wrong?
IN THE BEGINNING – YOU MUST NOT!
Taking A Stroll Down the Garden Path – Questioning the authority of God’s Word is as old as time itself. After all, it began in the garden.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
Notice the subtlety of the serpent’s craftiness. When confronting those doing (believing, accepting, following) what the Word of God says, He does not start with outright contradiction. First, he causes them to begin doubting the Word of God (“did God really say?”), then by distorting the Word of God (“you must not eat from any tree?”). That makes God’s Word seem unreasonable. Eventually, this allows him to take matters where he wanted to all along – disputing God’s Word altogether (“you will not”). If left unchecked, this ultimately leads to disobeying God’s Word and God calling out – “Adam, where are you?”
IN THESE LAST DAYS – YOU CAN IF. . .
When Did Appalling Become Appealing? – It’s a big step to go directly from doing God’s will to disobeying God’s will – something most “good” people would generally find appalling. But when taken in small steps, the gradual erosion of the truth or the eventual drifting away from the truth will frequently move us from appalling to appealing.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)
Yet, down through the ages mankind has generally been able to distinguish good from evil. It did not matter how one got there (by one giant leap or many small steps) the end of the garden path was almost universally still viewed as sin.
But in these “last days” things are changing. A new morality of ethical relativism or situational ethics is emerging – a paradigm shift in which there has been a fundamental change in the approach to or in the underlying assumptions with respect to morality (Oxford Dictionairies).
It is a philosophical view that is being held by more and more people in which what is considered right or wrong (good or bad) is not absolute but variable and relative, depending on the person, circumstances, social situation, or what people think (Encyclopædia Britannica Concise). It is a system of ethics that is judged within the context instead of by categorical (absolute) principles (Merriam-Webster).
Under the “old” order, these things were easily recognized as sinful and could not possibly be viewed as “having a form of Godliness.” But under relative or situational ethics we are witnessing the evolution of a “new” order of morality in which they just might be. The evolution might look something like this:
Recognizing Good from Evil –And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:22)
Rationalizing Doing Evil– You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:13)
Reinterpreting What Is Good – The time will come [last days] when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)
Rejecting Good for Evil – But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Recognition – Rationalization – Reinterpretation – Rejection – Relativism – Really?!
The Parable of The Mint in The Mop Water – There was a certain pastor of a church in a small rural community (let’s call him Steve). Throughout his many years of service, he had presided over many child dedications, baptisms, weddings and funerals. On one such occasion (a wedding to be exact) after all the festivities were over and everyone else had left, as was frequently the case, it fell to him and his wife (let’s call her Jaime) to make sure the sanctuary and fellowship hall were cleaned and ready for Sunday services the next morning.
Beginning at one end of the fellowship hall, Pastor Steve had nearly worked his way to the other end with a rag mop and a bucket of water. He nervously glanced at how much remained to be mopped and then at how dirty the mop water was becoming. You know that deep gray color that very nearly prevents you from seeing the bottom of the bucket and that thickening slimy consistency to the water that makes the mop virtually glide over the floor. It had very nearly reached that point where he was putting more dirt and grime on the floor than he was mopping up. He really needed to change the water, but he was tired and eager to finish as he still needed to brush up on his sermon for the next morning.
It was then that he heard the scraping sound from under the mop. Bending down to take a closer look he found the remnants of a wintergreen mint, one of the party favors that had fallen off one of the tables at some point during the evening. Steve was temporarily at a loss at what to do. It was too sticky to put in his pocket and he needed his hands free to finish the mopping. He momentarily glanced at the trash can up against the wall. Close but not that close. He could put the mop down, walk over and discard the mint. But he was tired and there was that nearly finished sermon that needed his attention.
A creative problem solver his entire life Pastor Steve decided that if he were careful enough to not let his lips touch that dirty, slimy, disgusting mint, and if he held his tongue back far enough to avoid making contact with the mint, he probably could clench it between his teeth just long enough to finish mopping the floor and make to the trash can. Gradually, however, as he got closer and closer to finishing up, a small amount of saliva dripped down from the roof of his mouth to the mint and from the mint to his lips. Eventually, the tightly clenched teeth gave way to smacking lips as the appalling became appealing, as the bitter became sweet.
As relayed by Pastor Steve Persson, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church – Sycamore, IL (with some “minor” creative embellishments by the author).
APPLICATION – PARADIGM SHIFT OR PARADISE LOST?
Consider the relative merits (deficiencies) of the following “models” of morality.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)
Woe to those who call right whatever they want it to be!