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Sin Dodgeball: The Proactive Perspective

September 12th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 3: 27-28 (NLT)

27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
      when it’s in your power to help them.
28 If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say,
      “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

The first day of school is always a telling experience.  It reveals the expectations of the instructor and outlines the boundaries of the students.  For elementary students, the first day’s speech entails a gargantuan list of things “not to do.”  Don’t talk.  Don’t throw things.  Don’t put chewing gum in anyone’s hair.  You know, the rules.  

Middle schoolers and high schoolers experience a slightly different, slightly more mature set of guidelines.  It doesn’t just focus on what “not to do,” but also what is expected of them “to do.” Don’t talk. Don’t throw things.  Don’t create tiny, reverse pyramids of spit wads on the ceiling.  Oh, and “do” your homework.  “Do” keep up with your essay assignments.

College, on the other hand, is almost completely a speech about “doing” rather than “not doing.”  I don’t think I ever remember a college professor giving the class a “don’t talk” speech on the first day of classes.  We were never told not to shoot spit wads or not to decorate our classmates’ hair with an assortment of various chewing gum flavors.  No, at this stage of life, we were expected to “do” more than we “didn’t do.”

The “do” and “don’t do” perceptions of our relationships with God are really issues of maturity.  One who is just walking into their new faith seems to always focus on what they should not be doing. Life becomes a challenging game of “Sin Dodgeball.”  Don’t say that word!  Don’t think that thought! Don’t drink that drink!  Don’t look at that chick!  Duck!  Sin’s headed right for your head!  

Now, there is much merit to the truth that a life newly committed to Jesus requires some changes and some omissions of our previous lifestyle; however, a person who’s sole obsession in life is to “not do” the wrong things will end up in one of two places.  They will either become a self-righteous, pious Pharisee who thinks that their lack of doing the wrong things makes them holy, or they will become so overwhelmed and discouraged by the impossible “Sin Dodgeball” game that they give up and lose their faith.  You see, just “not doing” the wrong things will never sustain a person’s walk with God– that philosophy of faith is like elementary school– it hasn’t yet grown into maturity.

Our walk with God should consist of more than just “not doing” bad things; it must also contain another key component: “proactively pursuing the right thing.”  God wants us to live in a college mindset rather than an elementary one.  Just look at this passage: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”  Scripture echoes the truth of maturity: “if you can do the right thing, then do it!”

I theorize that if our generation (and all generations, for that matter) would spend our time proactively doing the things we know we are supposed to that we would find that the allure of old life would take care of itself.  It’s hard to be tempted to get drunk when you’re not at the party at all because you’re serving food to the homeless at the downtown mission.  It’s unlikely that you’ll be lured into sexual sin when instead of having your car parked at a deserted spot in the park, it’s parked at your small group activity– where you and your girlfriend are both present.  

Doing what’s right decreases the probability and the opportunity to do what’s wrong.  It’s a simple concept, but a vital truth nonetheless.  Maturity isn’t just absence of the negative; it’s the presence of the positive.  

My final thought on this passage is it’s human context.  Living for God is more than just avoiding what’s wrong or keeping so busy that you never slip up.  No, it’s about serving others.  Giving. Serving. Loving.  Helping.  These are snapshots of a mature Christian’s life.  “If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, ‘Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.'”  We must understand that true proactivity that pleases the Lord will usually involve helping or loving the humanity that He loves so much.  If we don’t love them, we don’t understand the Father.  Love and service to people reveal the heart of a Father who was willing to give so much to rescue a humanity who had wandered so far. 

Spiritual maturity, then, is more than a stoic existence devoid of mistakes or weakness.  No, it’s a messy set of actions to serve a messy people with the love of a perfect Creator.

Sounds simpler than getting smacked with the sin dodgeball, don’t you think?


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