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Your Questions, Our Answers

I often feel as though, under the pressure of addictive sin, I have no choice but to fall. How much choice do we really have when something seems impossible to resist?

This is a very good question, and sadly it suggests a deception too often propagated about one of the great gifts God gave us, the gift of choice. Because He knew coerced love and obedience were worth little, He created Adam and Eve and placed them in a perfect environment and relationship in the Garden. God issued only one limitation: they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2). Notice this limitation involved choice. To maintain this wonderful life, they had to choose to do right.

I teach a course that focuses on a theology of sin in great literature. In the class, we read a number of books and stories in which the main character is destroyed by compulsive attraction to evil. In every case he or she chooses to open the door to darkness and keeps choosing through self-deception to go places, be with people, or do things that perpetuate poor choices. The warning is clear. We can choose, but good choices come out of rigorous self-examination. It matters what we do not only in our work time but also in our spare time, what we watch, what we read, what we listen to, whom we befriend. Nothing is neutral. We can take nothing for granted. If we are not practicing holiness in all that we do, our wills will be weakened, leading to great difficulty in choosing righteousness. We start believing the lie that choice is no longer possible.

The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself? How do we love ourselves?

I can hear the poignancy and sincere desire in your question, one many people ask today with a kind of helplessness. You are right to suppose that it is impossible to love your neighbor if you don’t value yourself. The problem is that Christians have to start at a different place than themselves or their neighbors to come up with a good theological answer.

Too often, friends, counselors and well-meaning mentors, encourage a way of thinking that focuses on self-love. They encourage a kind of self-affirmation that is not rooted in a biblical foundation, but an individualistic working up of things to make us feel good. However, Mark 12:28–30 makes it clear that the first and most important commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Out of that fierce love for God proceeds love for our neighbor, the second greatest commandment (Mark 12:31). The priority is clear; if you love God, you will love yourself because you are a reflection of Him, your values will be His, and you will know He values you. Then, you will love your neighbor. When we truly understand how much God loves us, how He even went so far as to give His Son to die for us, how He provided the Bible to show us His love, how He set up laws that, when followed, provide the best way we can thrive, out of that realization comes the ordering of our values and our love for ourselves and others. I must add that it is imperative to be in a healthy community of wise believers to help remind us of the confidence, identity, and purpose we have in Christ.

Is it a sin to fantasize about a celebrity? There weren’t television or computers in Christ’s day. Wasn’t He speaking only about people who knew one another?

While there were no television or computers in Christ’s day, the temptation to fantasize has existed since the Garden of Eden. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given everything beautiful and delightful including the actual presence of God. Then Satan invaded this innocence, deluding Eve that all of this wasn’t enough, that God had cheated them of something better. Eve’s fantasy of greater knowledge and sensuous indulgence along with Adam’s apparent refusal to counter this fantasy (for reasons we do not know) led to the tragedy of the Fall.

Fantasizing about someone who can’t be part of your life is a poor use of imagination, whether that person is a celebrity or someone you know. Beyond that, the Bible clearly says, in many places, that sexual fantasy is always sin no matter whom it involves. Matthew 5:28 is clear: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman [or man, by implication] lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Our imagination is to be treated as holy ground. When daydreams replace reality, they are a foolish way to escape our present circumstances rather than to address, change, or live with them.

BY Dr. Rosalie de Rosset, Professor of English, Homiletics, and Literature

Dr. Rosalie de Rosset has been teaching at Moody Bible Institute in the Communications Department for over four decades.  She is occasionally featured on Moody Radio. She is a speaker and writer and lives on the northside of Chicago, a city she enjoys for its natural beauty and multi-faceted art offerings.

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