by Doy Moyer
“If you can’t do that without also doing this, then don’t do that.” Here is a principle that many parents invoke when they are raising their children, and it applies to multiple activities — activities that are not in themselves wrong. Yet if those activities become the vehicles by which we do wrong, then we need to rethink those activities and, in some cases, cease them altogether.
When children are smaller, it might as simple as: “If you can’t play quietly without screaming and running, then you won’t be able to play.” There’s always a context to that, of course. There’s nothing wrong with running and playing, but we told our kids that if they can’t play gently and quietly after services without running (in the building so as to knock into an older person, or in the parking lot where a car might hit them), then they would have to sit. Self-control is the discipline here, and we need to teach our children to have it.
The self-control principle continues into adulthood, but with more serious implications. If you can’t root for a sports team without cursing your neighbors because they like a different team, then you need to rethink your involvement in that. Perhaps even harder for many is this: if you can’t engage in political activities or discussions without falling into malicious and evil behavior, then stay out of it. If involving yourself in political discussion and action entails, for you, anger, bitterness, gossip, evil suspicions, and so on, then get away from it until you learn how to control yourself, deny yourself, and submit yourself to the Lord. Cut out those areas that are a problem for you.
There’s nothing wrong with rooting for a sports team or forms of political activity in themselves, but if engagement for us entails acting and speaking in ways that are ungodly, then it’s far better to stay away. Does that sound extreme? Well, recall what Jesus said about the same basic principle:
“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 5:29-30).
There’s nothing wrong with using your eyes or hands, but if they become vehicles of lust and evil, then we better take the radical steps to do what is right. “But that’s hyperbole.” Ok, but do we get the point? Do we get the application? Take whatever steps are necessary to cut out those things that keep us from the eternal kingdom. Nothing is worth selling your soul over.