Yesterday, lawmakers approved a last-minute stopgap funding bill to avert a shutdown set to take effect today. Here’s why this is good news: if a partial government shutdown had occurred, airline passengers could see major delays if unpaid air traffic controllers chose not to work; national parks and other sites could have closed; processing of Social Security claims and benefits verification would have stopped; and any company doing business with the US government could have been impacted.
In other words, what happened behind closed doors in Washington affected millions across the nation.
Some other stories in the news illustrating this theme:
- A man in Illinois woke up to a bat on his neck in mid-August. The bat tested positive for rabies, but he declined the rabies vaccine and died of rabies a month later.
- After the Milwaukee Brewers clinched their division Sunday, star pitcher Devin Williams drunkenly punched a wall on his way home. He needs surgery and will miss the playoffs.
- Hurricane Sam is hundreds of miles offshore, but the National Hurricane Center is warning that the unseen storm will “likely cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” along the East Coast.
- An erupting volcano in Hawaii does not threaten residents on the island, but officials worry that spectators coming to view it will spread COVID-19.
- On this day in 2017, a gunman opened fire on a Las Vegas concert crowd, killing fifty-eight and wounding hundreds before killing himself. His motives remain unknown.
In each case, what was once private soon became very public. Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez observed, “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.” But the second and third seldom stay that way for long.
The unseen danger of “corroded” pots
This week we have explored ways to help people seek God who do not believe they need to seek God: demonstrate life transformation, choose compassion, embrace excellence, and exhibit compelling joy in the Lord.
We’ll close with one more factor: private sin corrupts our public witness in ways we seldom foresee at the time.
In Ezekiel 24, the Lord warned the people of Jerusalem that the king of Babylon would lay siege to their city. God explained why they were facing such peril by employing a powerful parable: “Set on the pot, set it on; pour in water also; [then] put in the pieces of meat, all the good pieces” and “the choicest one of the flock” (vv. 3–5). However, the pot had “corrosion” in it that ruined the food it cooked (v. 6). What others could not see soon corrupted what they could taste.
“Corroded pots” always have this effect on what they touch.
For example, the ongoing clergy abuse scandal has obviously devastated thousands of innocent victims. But it has also given secular people abundant reason to reject the faith these clergy represent. Many ask, “If religious leaders can commit such horrendous sins, why would we consider their religion for ourselves?”
In a fallen world filled with constant temptations, how do we keep our “pots” from becoming “corroded”?
Learning from Benjamin Franklin’s failures
In his thoughtful and practical new book, Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table: It’s Time to Win the Battle of Your Mind, pastor and author Louie Giglio warns us that entertaining private sinful thoughts allows Satan to influence our lives in ways that wreak far greater damage than we imagine when we are being tempted. Louie writes: “If [the devil] can claim victory over your mind, he can eventually claim victory over your life.”
The answer, however, is not trying harder to do better. As Louie notes, “The solution is surrender.” It is claiming the victory Jesus has already won over Satan and sin at the cross, then seeking his power through Scripture and the Holy Spirit to defeat what is tempting us. (I plan to say more about the role of God’s word in our minds and lives in Monday’s Daily Article.)
This solution is as countercultural as the transformation it offers. Even when we recognize the power of “corroded pots” to ruin our lives and witness to the secular world, our enemy tempts us to fight temptation in our strength. That’s because he knows we will eventually lose the battle.
Benjamin Franklin is Exhibit A of this fact. In a brilliant article for our website, my good friend Dr. David Dykes discusses Franklin’s personal religion. David is an acclaimed author and recently retired pastor of one of America’s greatest churches. He insightfully describes Franklin’s thirteen “moral habitudes” (crosses between habits and attitudes) to which he was passionately committed.
However, David notes that Franklin later admitted in his autobiography, “I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it.”
So will we.
“God is not a miser with his grace”
We cannot give what we do not have or lead others where we will not go. In a postmodern culture, a compellingly persuasive apologetic for the relevance of Christianity is demonstrating its relevance in our lives. This means that Christians must live like Christ. But it also means that Christians must seek the help of God’s Spirit to emulate God’s Son (cf. Romans 8:29).
Are you giving the enemy a seat at your table today? Remember that public devastation always results from “private” sin, then name your temptation and take it immediately to God. Ask his Spirit for the strength to resist the enemy and the resolve to be like Jesus.
Have you already allowed private sin to “corrode” your “pot”? Then name your sin now, acting before this cancer metastasizes further and destroys your life and witness. And claim the promise of Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
In Grace for the Moment, Max Lucado expands on this promise: “To abound is to have a surplus, an abundance, an extravagant portion. Should the fish in the Pacific worry that it will run out of ocean? No. Why? The ocean abounds with water. Need the lark be anxious about finding room in the sky to fly? No, the sky abounds with space.
“So should the Christian worry that the cup of mercy will run empty? He may. For he may not be aware of God’s abounding grace. Are you? Are you aware that the cup God gives you overflows with mercy? Or are you afraid your cup will run dry? Or your mistakes are too great for God’s grace? God is not a miser with his grace. Your cup may be low on cash or clout, but it is overflowing with mercy.”
You can have a “corroded pot” or an overflowing cup. Choose wisely.