Matthew Fitzsimmons

The Supreme Vice?

I came across this quote from C.S. Lewis shortly after our pastor addressed this issue in Sunday school. It seems that many Christians hold sexual sin up as much more horrible than the average pet sin. The problem with this view is that Christ viewed sins of the heart as the real problem. While sexual sin can have significant physical consequences (and I think this is part of what has made it rise to this status in our minds), sins of the heart are much more harmful to the soul.

Keep in mind that I'm not advocating sexual sin. What I am saying is that we need to view sins such as pride in a much more dangerous light than we view sexual sin. I'm not saying to lower our view of the danger of sexual sin, but rather to raise our view of the danger of our internal corruption to a level that reflects the true danger it brings.

Also, I'm not referring here exclusively to sexual sin. There are other outward sins that we sometimes try to conquer by using the more insidious sins. For example, has anyone ever told tried to get their child to stop doing something by trying to get them to believe that it was beneath them? That it was embarrassing? That it wasn't something “a Fitzsimmons” (for example) would do? What about in your own internal discussion with yourself? Are there things that you keep yourself from doing by telling yourself that you're better than that? Or that you're better than the people that do that? In all these cases, you're building up the much more dangerous sin of pride to “conquer” lesser sins. And you haven't really conquered the other sin at all. You've just found a more subtle and more satisfying sin to replace it.

Perhaps we can shed a little more light on this subject with an example or two. Let's say that you are a young man studying to go into full-time ministry, and you meet a young Christian lady. Let's say this girl has all the qualities that you look for in a mate as a person studying to be a pastor, and that she has all the qualities necessary for a pastor's wife. Now let's say that she has a child. Or even two. In her youth (before or after she trusted Christ doesn't really matter) she had sex and ended up with a child. Let's even say that she had lived with the guy for a while first (it wasn't just a one-time oops).

What would you think? She wouldn't make a good pastors wife. She'd limit my chances for ministry. I couldn't take any pastoral positions at big churches. She wouldn't be able to minister to people because of her past. Etc. If your opinion of whether she would make a good pastor's wife is at all lessened by this knowledge, then you have a problem with pride that will be a much bigger impediment than her prior forgiven sexual sin.

But C.S. Lewis sums it all up nicely:

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

October 4, 2007