Recent local news reports have prompted me to think about the increasing prominence of immorality in our society. It’s not that I haven’t noticed it, but recent events have brought a number of disparate accounts of it together.
First, there was the casual reference to a man, his partner and their children. That many people in modern society live together without a marriage covenant and procreate out of wedlock is no surprise. Our neighbours, friends, and even family members live this kind of immoral style of life. What saddens me is the casualness with which such shameful relationships are mentioned in public.
That worldly-minded people should live such lifestyles is, in some ways, understandable, but a recent conversation with a Christian colleague showed me how prevalent this lifestyle is among Christians. His wife had occasion to talk to a Christian friend she had not met for some time. It transpired that this friend, who was widowed, had been living with a man as husband and wife, yet unmarried. The reason was purely financial. Neither had any moral impediment to marriage, both being widowed. However, were she to remarry, her late husband’s employer would cease to pay her a widow’s pension. So to facilitate the continued receipt of the pension she had decided to live in an immoral relationship, and saw no contradiction with her Christian faith. The couple were content to disobey God’s clear commands forbidding adultery and fornication, and to faithlessly misrepresent the nature of Christ’s relationship with his Bride by their immoral relationship.
It is a worrying trend that professing Christians should treat the honourable estate of God-ordained marriage with such casualness. Sexual sin is no more heinous than any other sin, in the sight of God. What is of greater concern is the casualness with which professing Christians engage in any form of sin. In the situation mentioned, it is clear that there is more than one sin involved, such is the tangled web that sin inevitably involves.
A further worrying trend is that churches seem unwilling to confront such situations of immorality and sinfulness with the loving, restorative discipline that Scripture commands. It seems the contemporary church is in need of Paul’s sharp words of rebuke from 1 Corinthians about such lax discipline.
Such casualness about sin surely extends to our own “private” lives. We are practised rationalisers, able to sin without concern or conscience. Confession is unnecessary — what have we done to require it? Sin in others, however, is easier to diagnose, just as planks are easier to spot than specks. Would that we all were practised speck spotters.
Why has such a situation arisen among Christian people?
Is it, in part, that we have bought into the value system of this world? Or, rather, that like this world. we have abandoned God’s values. And having abandoned the standards of God’s temporal instruction — his Law and his Word — we have abandoned our eternal hope. The thought of Christ’s return, if we ever have it, has been relegated to the realm of the tooth fairy, such is its relevance to contemporary life. And yet, it is that very hope that should be purifying us, so that Christ may present us unblemished and unwrinkled by sin, when he presents his Bride to himself.
This is the antidote to casual Christian sin. May we be purified as that hope grips our souls in its loving and tender embrace.