A friend recently confided that he lamented taking his wife to see Les Mis. He had heard so many positive comments regarding how the movie represented God’s grace that he had felt confident taking his lovely bride on a date to such a rare movie. As the story line progressed, however, he realized that it had taken him to a bawdy brothel, and he felt that ache in his heart of “What have I done?” In his spirit, he reproached that he had allowed the intrigue of our culture and the vague recommendations of friends to override his usual particularity for researching movie content. He grieved that his eyes had taken in the physical scenery of women other than his wife. He had allowed his emotions to take him where his mind had covenanted not to go.
But isn’t that how it works? Our feelings, with an extremely compelling force, direct our thoughts and intentions with great magnitude. In unguarded moments, our emotions grab hold of our inner man and lead him with unexpected compulsion to places we never imagined we would find ourselves.
Without giving my flesh the benefit of even mentioning the scenario, I want you to know that I find myself dealing with this battle even as I write. A mixture of ugly emotions tug and pull at my being, urging me to allow their rule in my life. I tell them “no.” I ignore them. I valiantly try to “take them captive.” But yet they arise again and again with equal power. Round and round the cycle goes.
The Lord, however, spoke gently yet powerfully to my heart this morning during our time together. He reminded me of the commanding truth of Hebrews 12:1 to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
In essence, my battle was no longer with just my feelings, but with my right to those feelings and my inner desire to set a situation straight (in my own eyes, of course). I had allowed myself to mull over imaginary conversations in my mind, ponder a blog on the subject, or even email “facts” to others. I had allowed my feelings to lead my mind to a place it had no license before God to be.
I was in sin.
Calling my emotions what, indeed, they were, also gave me spiritual truth in how to deal with them. I needed to repent and then simply lay them aside. They could not belong in my life anymore than a godly man belonged in a brothel.
What about the other person’s sin against me?
Doesn’t matter. This verse does not use a possessive pronoun such as “my” or “your,” but merely the definite article: “the.” “The sin.” Not necessarily my sin, though that needed to be dealt with as well, but the sin. “Lay aside…the sin.” I could not permit sin–mine or others–to be the stumbling block that easily entangled me…not if I intend to run with endurance the race God has set before me.
Before me…not behind me.
The situation which caused the sin and pain happened in the past. I can do nothing to alter it. It happened. God has called me to represent Him in my present and to stay my course for a godly run into the future. I cannot accomplish this high goal if I maintain my contemplation about the sin of the past.
What do I do?
- Immediately confess my own sin, including each time my thoughts and feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness arise, trusting that God will be “faithful and just to forgive me my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
- Commend my feelings, including my desire for vindication to God. He bought me at a price–all of me, including my feelings–and He deserves to be entrusted with all of me–including my feelings.
- Lay aside the sin and garbage of the past lest it entangle my feet and derail my determination to run a higher race for His glory.
Ever since my children were small, I’ve advised them that they cannot change how other people act, but they had to take responsibility before God for their own responses–regardless. While it’s nice to know that this simple truth never changes, I am deeply blessed to understand the “why” behind it all.
When I hang onto the sin of the past, it entangles me. I stay stuck in that situation and cannot move on with God. I react from that viewpoint, and cannot respond this day–this moment–to what unfolds before me in the present. I will have regretfully allowed my feelings to lead me to a place I never thought I would be–right to where I didn’t want to go.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
PS. For those of you wondering about whether we will choose to see Les Mis, let me simply say this. I would never, under any circumstances, as a wife who loves Jesus, ask my husband to see a movie which set before his eyes such lewd scenes as may cause him to stumble. He is of infinite more value to me than any movie…and I get to live with seeing God’s grace each day.