Sometimes those moments when the moral obligations are most obvious is when it hurts the most.
In my world there is a particular person who is rather close, to the point of under my feet, as it were. This person is spiritually dead and morally vacant. While possessing a high degree of social conditioning, there is no significant response to moral truth, much less divine revelation. In other words, the only language that works is outright threat, and darn little of that. It’s complicated by connections to other people in the context. Worst of all, it’s a legal adult.
God allows us to face this kind of testing. There is likely always one, and often more, such folks in your life at various ranges of closeness. If you can escape their presence, things can be almost tolerable. If there is no escape, you’ll have to grit your teeth and do what’s right in spite of them. Thus I do.
It means I end up doing a lot of things I’d rather not have to do. It means time I dedicated to something else being snatched back and “wasted” on something you would think I should not have to do. But I give those things that time because that’s what my moral clarity demands. The world is the canvas against which we paint the glory of the Lord with our bumbling brush strokes. The world itself is of little other consequence. It’s there; it demands time and attention. It demands action. But the action is pointless unless it first arises from a genuine moral demand of the Spirit.
Here’s a test of moral discernment for you: Consider the issue child sexual abuse for a moment. In our Western world tainted with Anglo-Saxon values filtered through Aristotle, we think first and foremost about the loss to the child. We think of loss of innocence and gin up all sorts of damage in our minds that will permanently stain that child’s existence. While it’s not as if there is no such damage, it’s that such damage is often less severe than what rather tame and ordinary parents inflict on their own children by accident all the time. In other words, the damage from sexual abuse is not particularly egregious in itself (yes, repetition is a factor). But no; our society demands a false dichotomy to prevent sensible discussion and genuine remedies.
By no means is it harmless, but our society elevates such things to the status of a global catastrophe when it simply doesn’t qualify. We blow it out of proportion. What does the Bible suggest is the greatest sin here? Most likely it is the destruction of social fabric that comes with abusing trust, particularly if the abuser is an adult. You’ll notice that in the Law of Moses the penalty is rather tame, consisting of things like forcing the perpetrator to pay the bride price and take the girl as his wife, and performing all the attached social obligations. If the act is homosexual, the perpetrator is executed, of course, but not for reasons of the child’s age. God considers homosexual relations a serious fundamental threat to society in the first place, never mind the ages of participants. In no case is the mere desire itself for any particular perverted sex a sin, but the background noise against which we all struggle.
At any rate, you’ll recall I’ve often said social stability — as God defines it — is the summum bonum of all the Law Covenants. So in the case of this particular person I must clean up after, it’s best not to pretend I can correct what’s in his/her head or heart. We don’t live in a world where I can enforce the Law of God on others through tribal dominion, etc. Indeed, in our world, we struggle for any small opportunity to merely explain God’s moral character without facing a lynching squad. There are people who will read what I wrote about children above and throw the nastiest hissy fit. They don’t want to know what God thinks; they will tell Him what He ought to think.
By the way, this person always under my feet is also raising children with the same moral vacancy. How’s that for abuse?