One Saturday I was preparing reception food at a friend’s wedding. The pastor’s wife and I were rolling pieces of roast beef when one of the church leaders rushed into the kitchen to speak to her. “The Senior Saints are upset that the tables and chairs in their Sunday School class are missing.”
The pastor’s wife replied, “I know they get upset when we bother their room. Please tell them that we will be careful to put everything back the way we found it in time for church tomorrow. We really need those tables and chairs for the wedding reception.”
“I already told them that, but they still aren’t happy.”
I continued to roll the meat and thought to myself, The Senior Saints are really causing a lot of strife in this church. I wonder if they would ever be convicted about their cantankerous spirit regarding their Sunday school room.Although many of those men and women would have a strong conviction about other sins, such as immorality or drunkenness, they must think that certain sins of the heart and of the tongue are acceptable.
When I was in college and we were trying to figure out whether a certain song, movie, or piece of clothing was allowed, we would ask each other, “Does it check?” If it passed the dorm supervisor’s approval, or her “check,” then it was allowable. I think one of the weaknesses of many Christians is that we decide right and wrong based on what the people around us condone, rather than on God’s Word. I’ve been guilty of this type of thinking many times. I remember when I was asked to be a hall leader at my Christian college. In my mind, hall leaders were practically perfect people, and I felt compelled to try to act as perfectly as possible when I became one. Once I really got to know my fellow hall leaders and my dorm supervisor, I learned that none of them were faultless. So, I let my guard down and started allowing just enough fleshliness in my life that my peers would still consider me “spiritual.”
Most Christian environments that I’ve been a part of, whether it’s been in college, a camp setting, church, a family, or a Christian workplace, have had “checkable” sins–sins that no one seems to be bothered by. And while we shake our heads at people who hold to different standards than our own, we collectively participate in sins such as gossip, slander, truth-stretching, envy, and pride and then pat ourselves on the backs for not being as sinful as others. But some of the sins we merely shrug at are sins that God says he hates in Proverbs 6 and 8. Most of us do not think of arrogance, pride, and sowing discord among the brethren as being major sins, but God hates each of those things.
Nevertheless, there are many godly people who do not look to others for their spiritual cues. I have been blessed by friends who are not comfortable with any sin in their own lives. And, at times, they have actually changed their Christian environments for the better. These types of people are spiritual “thermostats” rather than “thermometers.” One of those friends is a former roommate of mine named Jenny. Jenny was a very godly girl, and there were no checkable sins in her life. When others of us would gossip, Jenny would either try to present the other side of the situation in a positive light or else she would remain out of the conversation, giving us the unquestionable impression that she did not want to have a part in gossip. The first couple of times I gossiped around her, I would think, We’d better not have this conversation around Jenny. She wouldn’t approve. But her godly response to our sinful behavior actually began to purify my thoughts. It wasn’t long before I began thinking, We ought not have this conversation. We are sinning when we talk about others this way. Jenny’s testimony made a huge impact on my life. I don’t think she ever sat me down and confronted me about my tongue; but she was different, and her difference challenged me to use God’s Word, and not other people, as my gauge for right and wrong.
I don’t want to condone sin in my life. I also want to be used as a “thermostat” to change my Christian environments for the better. I’m not so good at it yet, but I’m working on it. And it helps when I remember that, in God’s Word, there are no sins that “check.”
Proverbs 6: 16-19 “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”
Addy Forrest is wife of Dan Forrest and mother of two children. She has a B.S. and M.Ed. in Elementary Education and is a current student of the Christian Writers’ Guild. Addy has been a contributing writer for several BJU Press elementary textbooks. Her original children’s Christmas program, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” will be available from SoundForth in the fall of 2006.