FALLING into sin is, from hindsight’s viewpoint, an inevitable prospect, if nothing is done to appropriately scratch the itch that presents as a desire to be yielded to.
The obvious and illustrative falling, from a ministry viewpoint, is sexually; the sin of lust through pornea (the word from which pornography comes from). This doesn’t have to be an online addiction. Pornography, by virtue of its etymological root (pornea), which is sexual desire gone awry, and expressed inappropriately, is a classic example. It’s far too easy for the eye to notice the attractive woman or man in the pews, or someone we’re ministering with, or to exchange something supposedly harmless. Sexual seduction happens far easier than via an affair. It occurs in the mind when the mind dreams up its fantasies — without much entertaining, or much awareness — we could add.
It doesn’t really matter what’s caused the itch; what’s important is how we scratch it. And, additionally, it proves helpful if we know beforehand how itches operate. Furthermore, there are appropriate ways of scratching an itch as there are also inappropriate ways. The former should interest us just as the latter should instil fear in us.
1. The Physiology of An Itch
How does an itch work? If we get an itch anywhere but on our nose we find we can resist scratching, at least for a short time. We can wait a few seconds, even a few minutes. But if we have that itch occur on our nose, particularly on a certain section and in a certain way, we have to scratch it immediately or we’ll sneeze. Sometimes we sneeze anyway.
The itch that is sin operates the same way. Some itches are innocuous. They hardly pique our awareness. But other itches are downright dangerous. These itches beg to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. And we ought to pray that every significant itch piques the awareness of our just-noticeable difference so at least we have the chance of picking the itch up.
2. The Role the Mind Plays
Whatever the mind has conceived, whatever the mind has believed, can certainly be achieved. Do you see sin’s deception has already occurred? This is not to shame us, but to caution us, as to what is happening. Sin occurs first in the mind. (This just proves how indelibly helpless we all are against sin. In other words, our minds prove how fallen we are; our minds prove the Christian theology of God that we’re all sinners needing saving — in this case, in the moment.) And if the sin occurs first in our thoughts, it occurs secondly via our convictions — when thoughts become feelings, and feelings to be acted on.
The mind’s action of entreating sin is the itch. The body’s action to amend the itch is a scratch. And there are appropriate ways for scratching as there are inappropriate ways. Scratching the itch appropriately depends on the danger it presents us. Scratching appropriately recognises the risk and runs in the other direction, toward God.
3. Scratching a Dangerous Itch
Uppermost in our minds has to be the threat level of an itch that must be attended to. Itches of the sexual variety may prove dormant for some time, but their threat level is always very high to extreme — a veritable bomb waiting to detonate; one that could level a thriving metropolis — because all it needs is an opportunity; the right environment. The inputs to sexual sin are always there.
Dangerous itches ought to be quarantined in such a way as they’re dealt with in an over-the-top fashion. Sexual temptation is such a stimulant. As one thought is identified as having occurred, we take the event very seriously. Again, this is not anything about guilt or shame, but about pragmatism. It’s about acknowledging the potential.
It has to be dealt with consciously. We must take it seriously enough. Sharing it with an accountability partner, and not least with God in prayer, we take steps to change the order of our lives to break the chain of these dangerous cognitions. Whatever we don’t deal with consciously, so far as sin is concerned, can very well slip under the radar into unconscious thought, which is where Satan, the nemesis, hides.
God won’t fail to give us strategies to overcome our dangerous thoughts if we’re honest with him. And this is especially true if we, as a minister, have such a vision of calling that to serve Christ is everything. But let’s not forget that, at such a commitment, the enemy, Satan, may well make of us a higher-priority target. (Not that that should instil any fear in us. We just need to be doubly and triply aware.)
Sexual temptation occurs first in the mind as an itch. If we don’t scratch that itch appropriately and soon, temptation may lead to the unintentional enacting of the sin, behaviourally.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.