As A Hedge

The blogs I admire most tend to have a strong element of personal transparency balancing the instructive or assertive elements. Bailey at My Holy Joy fits that preference. I admire the honesty of writing. It’s been especially interesting to observe the transformation of her perspective from stridently conservative to determinedly open and, lately, a bit of a reprise.

Several of Bailey’s recent posts deal with maintaining sexual ethics in a romantic relationship (I’ll link to only one, but there are others). I can relate to the feeling of looking for a better set of guidelines after experiencing a hard turn in a relationship. But I don’t think that’s really the best lesson to learn from failing to keep the ethics you believe in.

I can see two themes in Bailey’s recent writing. The one I’m pretty sure is meant to be primary is the idea that it doesn’t accomplish anything good to do things you feel are morally doubtful just because you can. Libertine is not liberty. You may find at some point that some standards you thought were good are definitely causing harm, either your own harm or another’s; but if you’re not really sure that they are wrong and can only say for certain that they are awkward, giving up on those standards for convenience will probably be a cause of regret. If that’s a fair interpretation of what Bailey’s getting at I’d agree with it.

The other theme I see mixed in is the idea that if only some rules were kept, sin and regret would be avoided. In a technical sense I suppose it can’t be argued that if you have a rule “Don’t do X,” and you do X and regret it, then keeping the rule would have avoided the regret. But people don’t transgress their own moral standards only as a philosophical experiment in Christian liberty. Bailey seems to have first decided that some of her standards were legalistic and chosen to disregard them; other people may never decide to reject the standard but still be drawn by desire beyond their boundaries. Other people do maintain those standards that we can easily point to (“do not touch“) but, while maintaining this purity of doing, speak evil and destructive words. Avoiding sin is not a matter of devoting yourself sufficiently to some standard of righteousness – God knows that whatever standard of righteousness you profess, you will compromise. Not one man will stand before God righteous in his own eyes, because the Lord of truth will reveal only one who is righteous – his own son.

In the New Covenant God revealed that the purpose of even his own law was not to prevent sin, but to make it manifest when it occurred. God has not willed that we be righteous by keeping law. When the stewards of the law of Moses found it hard to keep the added more rules as a buffer to help people never even come close to breaking the law, and it did not work. Thinking that you need to be more strictly devoted to your personal laws when  you are disappointed that you did not keep them is like thinking you need to be more diligent about washing your mirrors when you see that your face is dirty.

I think we are better learned if we find in our failure the evidence of our need for grace. What are we saying when we resolve to follow a better law so that we will need less grace? Aren’t we saying we resolve to need God less?

Not that we pursue sin with abandon because of grace. You cannot do this, for if you pursue sin you are not recognizing it or treating it as sin, and if sin is not so much sinful than it doesn’t require so much grace to forgive. We despise grace by either devoting ourselves to the law or to lawlessness.

I like how Rich Mullins wrote about regretting sin in his song “Growing Young.” His treatment sounds less like “I’m going to do better next time” and more like “I will sing of my forgiveness.”