I grew up in a tiny church. Every Wednesday night, the pastor would gather all the kids together, and while our parents prayed (yup, every Wednesday was a good ole’ fashioned prayer meetin’), he would read us missionary stories and sing songs. I still remember the one of missionaries having to eat goat eyeballs; somehow steamed broccoli didn’t seem so bad after that…
Our pastor was pretty tone deaf. And I don’t remember the bulk of the songs we sang. But there was one listing all the things that the Lord hates. I remember breathing a small sigh of relief when we lifted those lyrics – I was in the clear. It felt sometimes that I was drowning in a sea of right and wrong. The Bible was chock-full of standards that I fell perennially short of (which is kind of the point… because I need Jesus desperately), but this list felt like a slam dunk. I was pretty confident I was successfully avoiding all things that the Lord hates. Phew!
But as I grew, that haunting little melody would trickle into my mind at key moments. I did have haughty eyes. I did tell “little white” lies. Jesus said if I was angry at someone, then I had murdered them… the list ticked on and my sins added up. But the one that pricks me regularly is the phrase “feet that make haste to run to evil.”
We live in a culture that mocks purity. Even in the church, aspersions are cast on you if you have certain “guardrails” set up in your life. I grew up in very conservative churches. The backlash from my generation has been a greater flaunting of Christian liberties. As I grew to realize the purpose of God-given liberty, it further solidified something that was wrong in my life and our church culture…
In order to live radically different lives in our sinful, yet enticing, world, it requires some feet that run away from evil. This means they must run towards good. They have only two choices: evil or godliness. My feet must actively move in the direction of holiness. These are not feet that flirt with danger, these are feet that are racing down the path of purity.
We like to play with sin. We rarely chase after it with reckless abandon, but we like a little dab here or there. We listen to music that affects our mood by making us feel lonely or powerful. We eat food that provides comfort or control. We choose our friends, our clothes, our hobbies based on what makes us feel (and look!) amazing. In and of themselves, these things are not bad. I hope you have good music, food, and friends; but with each of those items come values. Your music tells you what’s sexy, valuable, and worthy of your love. Food tells you that you can be comfortable, that your tastes matter, that your body is yours to do with as you please. Friends will speak into your life. Are they sharing truth (that occasionally wounds), or do they speak lies that slide down sweetly, but poison your theology and thoughts?
So… back to my upbringing. I scoffed at the guardrails of others. I mocked their faux holiness. I was “past that immaturity.” And to a certain extent, it’s good to get there. Morality will never save you. A veneer of it will never keep you from sin. BUT. But we must also be careful.
We must have feet that run away from sin. For me, that looks different than it does for you (enter: Christian liberty!). We must be actively chasing after purity. In order to have feet that don’t run after evil, we must have feet that chase good. Your natural bent is evil. Your feet will automatically run that way. DON’T LET THEM.
So, where is sin creeping in? Where are your feet dipping their toes in the puddles of immorality? For me, one of the things I changed was my music. I was a top-hits-every-lyric-memorized-fiend-on-the-dance-floor. Until I realized that lust, longing, and discontentment was being stoked by each little song I listened to. So… I stopped. The food choices I make are deeply tied to where I go for comfort and rest. My radical diet changes (made necessary by ulcerative colitis) have attacked those fortresses of sin. I don’t go to malls very often… I get discontent or judgmental. I love shopping, but I try to avoid it, and stick to needs rather than wants. I’m constantly finding little things that trigger, or open a little doggy door for, sin.
And here’s the beauty of the church: you may be able to shop without sinning. You may memorize every Top 40 song and never sin (although… some of those lyrics… but that’s another post for another day). And conversely, some of the things that trigger sin for you might not bother me at all. (I had a girlfriend who refused to watch chick-flicks because they made her bitter. I had never even had a twinge of that. Which is great, because I love my “Pride & Prejudice.” Anyone else? Anyone?) That’s why one-size-fits-all holiness doesn’t work. But we all have feet that run to evil. This is because we are inherently sinful. And here’s your warning: your sin doesn’t want you to cut off its little inroad. Chances are, when you turn your feet towards holiness, there’s going to be a twinge of regret (initially). And you’re going to look weird. You just are. Purity is weird in this world.
Embrace the weird.
And run towards purity.
You won’t regret it. It’s what God loves.