According to a recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 of America’s seniors in high school already has a sexually transmitted disease. By the 8th grade, 52% of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 41% have smoked cigarettes, and 20% have used marijuana (according to the National Survey of Substance Abuse). We all know that traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for all persons age 6–33 but did you know that about 45% of these fatalities are alcohol-related? Drivers age 21–29 drive the greatest proportion of their miles drunk.
I was talking to an acquaintance named Zach about experiences we had in high school and college. He had just finished telling me all about this wild party he’d attended his senior year. He knew me well enough to know our interests in that area weren’t alike but I was dumbfounded when he asked me if I felt like I’d missed out on “normal” experiences like drinking, partying, intimate dating, etc. (I’m reminded of how many times I’ve heard “you’re just different” – even by people who are supposed to be Christians) It gave me a perfect opportunity to share with him how I perceive “normal” experiences. The above statistics are staggering but most people don’t think in terms of consequences. Zach was coming from the perspective of experimentation… using your own experience to decide if certain behaviors are okay. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Experience keeps a dear school but fools will learn in no other.” Unfortunately, by the time he’d made a decision about whether something was good or bad for him, Zach had already become addicted to the party scene and all the comes with it. He realized it wasn’t “the best kind of life” but didn’t think it was “that bad”. What he was asking me was how I knew if a behavior is good or bad, moral or immoral? And does it really matter if it’s your life? You can’t answer either of those questions unless you have a standard.
Does science have the answer? I’d say facts can help sometimes. Because of science, I don’t have to smoke to know that I have a 96% chance of getting cancer in my throat or lungs; I don’t have to sleep around to know that I could get a life-altering (or ending!) STD. Does Sunday morning have to be spent with a “hug-the-toilet-hangover” for me to have had a good time Saturday night? Thank heaven the answer would be “no.” Common sense and science gives you a foundation for these. But even more than that, I want to live by a standard of absolute Truth. People might feel like they have the freedom to do whatever they want but if they knew the truth, they’d see those addictions to sex, porn, drinking, drugs, etc. as anything but freedom. On July 4th, we celebrate good ole American independence and we do it flaunting more bondage than we ever experienced in the history of this nation.
Most of us know about the “BIG” bondages and some of us have done a pretty good job of avoiding “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” (well, maybe not the rock and roll). That being said, this might get a little bit uncomfortable… aren’t there more benign, less socially invasive behaviors we have a hard time balancing or controlling? How about eating (or not eating), beauty, perfectionism, materialism, workaholism, depression, thought-life, co-dependent relationships… we were created with a drive to seek fulfillment. We are bent toward addictions in the increasingly obsessive “pursuit of happiness.” Yes, even for Christians, right priorities can be elusive. Our relationship with the Lord should be at the top of our list but how many of us, myself included, get stuck doing or thinking about other things first: spending more time on IM, working out, watching television, shopping, clocking overtime hours, going to movies, playing videogames?
Life in Jesus Christ is a celebration of freedom and sensational experiences. My freedom isn’t something that can be taken away and it isn’t the “normal” experience. Christians shouldn’t be stuffy, uptight legalists. Of anyone, we have ultimate freedom! It’s rock solid, supersedes national laws and clickish social hierarchies, and gets us out of those funky “religious rules” made by men to dominate men. Emancipation has always required sacrifice, sacrifice of life, resources, and responsibility. In my battle for independence, only two lives were necessary, Jesus Christ’s and mine. He died for my freedom and now I’m giving my life to serve Him. I have no life, no freedom, no good experiences AT ALL without it. If you serve yourself and your desires… you lose; drive for self-fulfillment turns us on to bondages that wreck our lives. James put it well when he said, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty…”