Monday, February 2, 2009

The Effects of Polution

In her book A Way of Seeing, Edith Schaeffer speaks of the effects of pollution. “Polluted air can be a gradual thing, and --- as one day follows another with slight difference and unnoticeable change --- whole cities full of people can be breathing a certain amount of poison so destructive that some become ill, and others even die as a direct result of the variety of lung problems which arise.” A little later she says “Polluted food and drinking water can be deceptive to the point that poison can be taken into the body without recognizing its presence.” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan describes a similar progression in societal ills as “defining deviancy down.” He uses this phrase to describe how what used to be considered deviant in society is now standard practice. This is how a society often becomes immersed in corruption, immorality and evil. These terms are redefined to be less offensive. Deviancy has been redefined. There is no abrupt change. The downward slide is gradual. The social pollution has become more powerful but we hardly notice it. Even if we find ourselves being uncomfortable, we don’t recognize that it is because the standards have changed. Karl Menninger, in his book "Whatever Became of Sin" takes a similar stance, noting that what used to be considered sin is no longer considered to be sin.

The author of Psalms 1 describes a similar process in the spiritual descent into evil. He uses the metaphor of “Walk, Stand, Sit” to describe a seductive progression into evil. At first a person merely associates with the wicked and their ways. He merely accepts them. But by stopping and standing, he begins to entertain the counsel of the wicked as being attractive. Finally he becomes one of the co-conspirators, instigating evil as he sits in their planning sessions. “Walk, Stand, Sit” --- the progression into evil goes ever so slowly and unnoticed. Just like the process of the pollution of the air, water and food which slowly increases day by day, one doesn’t even notice his own steady descent down the slippery slope into evil until it becomes normal and habitual. We have become spiritually polluted. It has a negative impact upon our personal lives, the lives of our families and that of the society around us.

How do we avoid this descent into evil? The author of Psalms 1 provides the answer. The descent is avoided by delighting in and meditating on God’s word. Just as fresh air, pure water, and unpolluted food is the answer to our physical pollution, so also the fresh Word of God is the solution to the problem of our spiritual pollution. Psalms 119:11 states: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” God’s Word provides the corrective solution to keep us from digressing into evil. It keeps us from redefining sin in more socially acceptable ways. His Word is a deterrent to keep us from a slow steady progression towards evil. It becomes an objective standard that we can use to measure the tendency we have to slide down the slippery slope into sin. When we truly examine our own lives, we come face to face with the fact that we all have this tendency. This raises some thought provoking questions that we each must face. Where is my delight? Is it in God’s Word? In what areas of my life do I have one foot on the edge of the slippery slope that can lead me down the path towards evil? Only by knowing them can we avoid the slow, steady descent into sin.

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