I heard a lesson recently that I felt compelled to share with everyone. So often, in our generation, I hear/read those who question, “can a Christian (insert random questionable activity here)?” Whether it’s viewing particular TV shows and movies, listen to particular music, partake of mind-altering chemicals, etc…all too often I hear my brothers and sisters asking what’s the furthest that they can go, the closest they can get to sin, before they have committed it. And, this lesson sort of deals with that exact topic. Consider it in terms of your physical health. How many of us would go to a doctor and say, “Doctor, how fat can I get before I get sick.” Like, how overweight can we become before we start to develop high blood pressure or diabetes? None of us would ever do that. In fact, if that’s how we’re living our lives then we’re not going to do very well. No, rather, we would go to a doctor and ask them how we can live healthier. We would ask them what foods and exercises will allow us to optimize our lives.
But, spiritually, we do the exactly that. Spiritually, we tend to look at it as “what’s the bare minimum we can do?” We seek to find out how far we can push the envelope before we’ve fallen into sin. How many cookies can we eat before we have problems. And the problem with that is this; if we live our lives walking on the border of sin, then we’ve already sinned. The word sin itself means “to miss the mark.” Consider that it’s root meaning is derived from an archery term. And to sin means that we are aiming at the bullseye and miss. And, even the most skilled archer will sometimes miss the bullseye, they will miss the mark. And so too shall we often miss the mark. The goal of the life of a follower of Christ is to become more like Christ, and if He is truly our goal, then we will miss occasionally. Much like someone picking up the bow for the first time will often miss the bullseye, but the more that they practice, the more often they will hit the mark as well. When we begin to mature in our spiritual walk, we will find ourselves missing the mark much less frequently. And the more we will begin to notice those smaller “misses” in our lives. We will no longer consider hitting the target itself as sufficient, we will begin to hit the rings, and then our aim will come more towards the center, and eventually, our eyes will focus on that center mark, and we will notice all the scars from where we hit the outer rings and will no longer be content with adding to those scars.
The problem with this “what’s the furthest I can go” mindset is that it sets our pleasure as the bullseye. It’s dangerous to maintain that mindset because it doesn’t have being Christlike as the target. In archery terms, it would be the equivalent of grabbing the bow, taking sight, and then turning around and firing the arrow in the opposite direction. When the goal is our pleasure, we will never fail, but when the goal is the true happiness and contentment, the true freedom that comes from Christ, then, though we will occasionally miss, we will grow more able to hit the mark with the practice of maintaining a holy life. We will become more able to maintain those standards through the spiritual exercises, the spiritual disciplines, prescribed by the Church. We will grow in our discipline through prayer, through fasting; we will grow in our humility through almsgiving, through obedience to the canons and doctrines of the Church, through confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16,1 John 1:9); we will grow in our holiness through strict adherence to the traditions of the Church and the meeting together of others, through our discipleship and mentoring. And, as we grow, we will remain removed from self-righteousness by being ever more aware of our own shortcomings, focusing on those rather than the failings of others.
As we would never go to a doctor and ask them how out of shape we can become before our bodies destroy themselves; spiritually, the Church is our hospital. We can look to it and ask, “what’s the worst we can do and still enter the kingdom?” or we can look to the Church and abide in the methods it has given us to be healthier spiritually. We who were created in His image and bare His name, the question should never be, “can I get away with this,” but rather, “is this worthy of bearing His name.” Only once we have set our aim correctly can we ever hope to hit the target, my beloved brothers and sisters. We must ever “set our minds on things above, not the things of this earth.” (Colossians 3:2), and only then, having set our aim correctly, when we fall short, do we confess, repent, and are forgiven.
May the peace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family. Christ is in our midst.