Today, millions of evangelical believers will return to the world of clicks known as internet pornography. Again. Despite many church efforts to protect against this crouching killer, the pandemic persists. Porn is a dangerous drug attached to a powerful human drive. As noted throughout this series, we typically do not “expel,” exclude or discipline believers involved in porn. We generously accept them as full participants in the church. This is just one example of how we prescribe “reasonable self-determination” for ourselves: the majority sinners.
In moderate doses, it offers grace and tolerance to all sinners. Yet in large doses, we risk crossing the reasonable line and becoming “self-determined.” When this happens, we begin to demand or grab for grace in a way that starkly resembles how we consume porn. Grace can become a drug just as porn is a drug. After all, God has to give it to us because Jesus died for all sin. Right?
Tell that to Cain…
God offered Cain one of the most troubling rebukes in scripture: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” God did not withhold grace; he invited Cain into it. Cain ignored this invitation, turning self-determined (he murdered his brother). The echo can still be heard: “If you do what is right…”
We may be tempted to ask, “What does God mean?” Something inside us wants to escape the grip of this statement; or else pretend we don’t understand. Remember Pilate’s infamous, “What is truth?” When God speaks, he can really shake our foundations.
This passage threatens us because it confronts the way we portray God as endlessly graceful. His rebuke implies a boundary to grace. Jesus spoke of such borders: he taught that God will not be mocked when we judge others. With Cain, we learn that God will not be mocked when we abuse grace by our sin. These two tendencies – to judge and to sin – strangely bleed into one. With both, our “reasonable self-determination” can turn self-determined.
When faced with this reality, it can be discomforting – even frightening. We often respond in one of three ways: some of us harden our hearts against God (like Cain); some of us increase our determination to make God and the Bible conform to the way we are living (like a man who once told me porn is just a guy thing); and some of us run toward the Lord in humility.
Join me tomorrow as we close this series by considering a fourth and final principle to guide “reasonable self-determination” for inclusion of LGBT+ people in evangelical churches. God bless you.