Copyright 1999 by Bob and Gretchen Passantino
For though we live in this world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The caller to the radio show we were on was asking for help to overcome his “sexual addiction.” “I just can’t stop picking up prostitutes,” he said, “I just have this overwhelming urge and I pull over and pick one up. Help me break through this!” We asked him where he was calling from. He replied that he was on his cell phone in his car, cruising Sunset Boulevard at 10 p.m. on a weekend night. “Everywhere I look,” he complained, “there are hookers and I just can’t stop myself.” We probed a little deeper. “Was this compulsion this strong when you got home from work today? No? When you sat in your kitchen and ate your dinner? A little stronger when you thought about what you wanted to do tonight? . . . .” Our questioning uncovered that over the course of his evening, the caller had made many small decisions, each of which moved him closer to the “Strip” (as it used to be called) and closer to fornication. He was like someone who edges closer and closer to the alligator pond at the zoo just for the thrill of it, jumps the guard rail, slides down the embankment, crosses the moat, reaches out to “pet” the alligator — then sues the zoo because the alligator snaps his arm off.
All too often what appears to be compulsive sinning is merely the natural consequence of many small concessions we could have resisted but chose to indulge. The apostle Paul gives us the remedy in this passage from 2 Corinthians. If we take every thought captive to Christ, then we will never start down the “easy street” to sinful indulgence. Sadly, Christians often fail to heed these words and instead copy the ways of the world, those without Christ. How absolutely essential mental self-discipline is to understanding and conforming to reality! This is true not only in the area of personal habitual sin, but in our understanding of truth and justice as well.
Buford Furrow’s assault on the Southern California Jewish center didn’t come “out of the blue.” The Los Angeles Times headline said it well, “Buford Furrow’s Journey from the Birthplace of Racist Ideologies.” Through conventions, classes, literature, friendships, and other contacts Furrow set his mind on racism, hate, and violence. His thoughts became “captive” to evil through successive compromises with sin. The anti-gun advocates have it wrong — it wasn’t Furrow’s access to weapons that caused the carnage. It was his repeated commitment to sin.
Another article in the same section of the Los Angeles Times was titled, “Prisoners Use Pay Phones to Plan Crimes, Study Finds.” It was a very good, thought provoking article that analyzed the study and interviewed various experts about how to curtail this problem. No one proposed outlawing pay phones in the general society, and the article acknowledged that anyone with a “criminal mind” will continue to plot crimes even if his or her access to phones is limited. The general society does not use pay phones to plot crimes because most people have not committed their minds to criminal activities. The pay phone may become an instrument of sin for the criminal using it to set up a crime, but the root of the sin is in the mind of the individual who has chosen in multiple ways, small and large, to embrace sin rather than righteousness.
A third article in the August 13 Times caught our eyes: “Partners of Underage Girls Focus of Study.” The article detailed that of girls under 18 who had boyfriends more than two years older, “70% became pregnant — a rate nearly four times higher than that of girls with partners no more than two years older.” Just as mental associations can entice into sin one step at a time, physical and emotional associations can do so as well. The caller to the radio show wouldn’t have picked up a prostitute if he had never left his apartment that night, just as the girl who refuses to associate with boys who are much older and/or who have “loose” morals is at much less risk for fornication. When our society encourages 10 and 11 year olds to “go steady,” “have crushes,” hold hands, and kiss; why are we shocked when we end up with pregnant 15 year olds and 17 year olds dying of AIDS? When we take every thought captive in obedience to Jesus Christ, we discipline our actions and associations accordingly.
Thoughts, words, and deeds can have terrible consequences. Someone like Furrow kills and maims innocent people, criminals victimize strangers, teenagers produce children without stable, nurturing families — millions die in alienation from the One who desires to give them eternal life. Another article in the Times graphically illustrates the horrible consequences of committing oneself to ideas that are contrary to God’s Word. The headline wasn’t too alarming, “D.A. Won’t File Murder Count in Death of a Premature Baby.” The details were much more shocking. A convicted prostitute drug addict gave birth to a son in a motel and abandoned the 2 pound child in the bathtub. The little boy was born three months premature and suffering from the effects of his mother’s cocaine use. He died a month later. Certainly the mother’s actions had terrible consequences. But here’s where ideas also have terrible consequences. Because the abortion rights movement has persuaded our courts to define preborn children as not human persons, this small victim’s life had no legal protection. This horrible doublespeak was not lost on the officials in the case. Tory Richards from the Orange County District Attorney’s office noted, “Unfortunately, because of the way the law was written, this is not a murder case.” The article’s review is chilling: “In this case, the question was, ‘Should the mother be held criminally liable for what she does to her body prior to the fetus becoming a child? It’s not just a criminal question. It’s a life question too,’ said a law enforcement official familiar with the case. The law required investigators ‘to look at what happened before a child’s birth separate from what happened after birth,’ the official said. That legal requirement affords a woman the constitutional right to privacy and to have an abortion. Charging Jenkins with murder for using the cocaine that was found in the newborn’s system would be like charging a woman with murder for using abortion to end a pregnancy, Richards said. Thus, prosecutors determined that the evidence allowed them to accuse Jenkins only of child endangerment for leaving a premature, newly born infant alone for several hours. ‘It’s frustrating in this situation, where a fetus is exposed to illegal drugs that can kill an adult. But the law says that anything that happens prebirth limits the district attorney’s ability to file homicide charges,’ the official said.”
Ideas have consequences. As Christians we must be continually vigilant to fill our minds and our lives with truth and righteousness, not falsehoods and sin. It requires hard work, discipline, and time, but it is essential. Paul admonished, Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8).