It was an early morning detour to Wal-Mart on our way to church--Mama picking up an item needed at church, and the rest of us waiting in the car. We watched the harried fathers, the tired shift workers, and the exuberant teenagers walk and talk and shop. And then someone caught sight of an employee, far away from the hubbub of the entrance, smoking in solitude. Banned from the rest of the world by recent legislation, the smoker had to find a secluded spot in which to legally puff her cigarette.
The law...what an interesting thing! The pros, the cons, the vagueness and specificity of it all. And the misery of being addicted to such a thing--of having to walk far, far away from the places people gather in order to satisfy a habit; of knowing that every puff endangers your children, spouse, family, and friends (not to mention yourself); of perfuming the air and clothes and furnishings every day with the aroma of smoke; of spending hundreds of dollars just to keep up with the habit; and of being so addicted, that even a strong desire to quit is not sufficient. (I have friends right now who are struggling to kick their smoking habit, so I have the greatest respect and sympathy for those who are fighting their addiction.)
Suddenly, though, Papa said the most shocking thing. "Smoking is just a sin you can easily spot." And, most unexpectedly, it was as if all of us could have been standing on that corner, puffing on our "cigarette"--a sign proclaiming our weakness, our addictions, and our sins. It doesn't seem so bad, those sins we can do quietly and privately without proclaiming them in a busy parking lot. To God, however, the evidences linger--the smoky stench, the raspy voice, the blackened gut, the waste of valuable resources, and the influence and harm we impart to everyone around us.
"You have set our iniquities before You,Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance....The days of our lives are seventy years;And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.Who knows the power of Your anger?For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.So teach us to number our days,That we may gain a heart of wisdom."~Psalm 90:8, 10-12
Ultimately, however, the smoking analogy breaks down, because it is not the act of smoking or of enjoying the stolen sweets that is sin--it is the breaking of God's Law and the rebellion against a holy, just God that is the sin. Whether we are sinning on a stage in front of millions, or sinning in a dark closet corner, we are sinning before God. Galatians 5:19-21 speaks of the terrible consequences of sin:
Just as the smoking isolates someone here in Washington State from the rest of the public, so sin isolates us from God--He is just, pure, and righteous, and He cannot stand the stench of sin in His presence. Begin with the fear of the Lord, and learn to tremble at the thought of daring to stand in opposition to Him. If you have never given your life to God, this is your moment and the day of your salvation. Submit to God, the Master of your life and allow Him to uproot those sins."Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
And if you are a Christian, dressed in dainty florals and pretty pinks on the outside, but with blackened lungs and desperate cravings on the inside, recognize the odiousness of your sin to God, and stop taking advantage of grace.
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."~ Romans 6:12-14