Friday, January 20, 2006
It was easier back in the day. "Don't drink, swear, smoke or chew or hang around with people who do." That pretty much laid it all out for us, right? Let's shun sinners. But not all sinners, just the smokers, drinkers, chewers and expletive users. It was a simpler system.
We didn't want to be seen with someone smoking a cigarette. After all, people would think that we: a) approved of smoking, b) approved so much we smoked also. Guilt by association. Nothing will damage your reputation quicker than to be seen with a pariah of Christian society.
We weren't to shop at a store which was open on Sunday (with the possible exception of a restaurant where we could eat out after church). We couldn't be seen going into or out of a tavern. Just to be safe we shouldn't even look in the windows to see what went on there. And a store which sells alcohol isn't worthy of our business. Movies? An instrument of the devil. A Christian would never go support this sinful industry. Unless Walt Disney was behind it. Then we could attend, but don't think about going back.
Now perhaps you don't remember those days. Maybe yours were more strict or less strict than this, but if you were brought up in a church or spend part of your life there then you remember the attitude. The rules were well defined. A Christian shouldn't associate with "those types" of people. After all, we didn't want to be dragged into their sinful ways or have someone think that we had.
The targets were easy to see. The neighborhood bar and the liquor store. The theatre with the lighted marquee. The cigarette and cigar smokers. Since they were easy to see and distinguish, they should have been easy for us to avoid. Of course there were exceptions. The Ricardos on television both smoked and were sponsored by a tobacco company, but we still loved Lucy. The local drug store is where we had our prescriptions filled. We simply overlooked the stacks of cigarette packs behind the counter where we paid. Ah, the sweet smell of hypocrisy.
We Christians are awfully good at setting up targets. We move them around from time to time, but they still serve their purpose. They let us know that there are bad people out there and we don't want to be dragged down to their sinful level.
The best way to spot a target is from an elevated position. We simply make sure we stay above the filth and squalor. Don't get our hands dirty. Don't leave a smudge on our shoes. Shoot from the crow's nest. Remember, we're better than that.
Except we're not.
The smokers weren't breaking Biblical law any more than the overeaters, and we sure weren't going to cancel the church potlucks. The drunks were sinning, but then again so were those of us whose head inflated to the point where we thought we were better people than them. Somewhere we forgot about the sin of pride. And in the midst of shunning sinners, we forgot that we too are sinners.
Today in some circles, I see targets drawn around homosexuals. I even see Democrats put in the cross-hairs. And while I appreciate the desire to point out sin and warn people of its consequences, I wonder how many people we're going to dismiss without so much as a token prayer, let alone the kind of love which our Lord and Savior advocated.