Nibbling Your Way Into the Headlines

The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. – James 1:14-15

Harvey Weinstein
Kevin Spacey
Bill Cosby
Roy Moore
Al Franken
John Conyers
Matt Lauer

I don’t know the full story on any of these men, but I’m pretty sure that none of them ever dreamed they would be where they are.

Which raises the question, how do you go from wanting to live a good life to being front page news? I suspect that for many it’s the same way sheep get lost.

They nibble their way to the edge of the pasture.

They spot some grass just outside that pasture, mosey on over and nibble some more.

Then they spot a little more grass just a little further outside the pasture, mosey on over and nibble there.

And before they know it they are so far outside the pasture that they don’t know how to get back. And they get eaten by a wolf.

But it’s not their stories I’m interested in. It’s yours. And mine. If you’re like me you’ve been reading the headlines and shaking your head and clucking your tongue in disappointment. Maybe even disgust.

But if we think that what’s inside of those in the headlines isn’t inside of each of us, we’re kidding ourselves. The capacity to nibble our way out of the pasture is within us all. Sin runs through all our veins. So, we’d all be wise to give thought to how we might guard against our propensity to nibble our way to disaster. Here are a few thoughts.

  1. Decide now on the boundaries of your pasture. In other words, get clarity around your moral boundaries. Let Scripture guide you. Or ask yourself, “Would Jesus and grandma approve?”
  2. Commit to living within those boundaries and share that commitment with God in prayer.
  3. Reflect regularly on your thoughts as well as your behavior. Are you living within your boundaries? Remember that sin often starts with your eyes (what you allow into your attention), moves to your mind (what you focus on), then moves to your heart (what you become emotionally attached to) and if left unchecked often becomes our lived experience. So, honestly reflect on each of these areas.
  4. Invite another person to be your accountability partner and give them permission to regularly look you in the eye and ask you the hard questions. I once read about a high-profile Christian leader who sat with a group of men each month and asked them to hold him accountable. And at the end of the session each month the final question was, “Have you lied about anything you’ve told us today?” That’s serious accountability, but that leader said he did it because he never wanted to underestimate the power of sin in his life.

Do these suggestions seem over-the-top? Perhaps. But it sure beats winding up in the headlines. Or being eaten by a wolf.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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