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“Sin demands to have a man by himself. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today, I attended a “Iron Sharpens Iron” men’s conference in Bellevue, Nebraska. It was a great day! And one of the speakers quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Sin demands to have a man by himself. …The more isolated a person is, the more destructive…the power of sin [is] over him…”

Eric Metaxas

Chances are, you’ve never heard of Pfeiffer syndrome. It’s a rare genetic disorder that’s characterized by the “premature fusion of certain bones of the skull.” This fusion “prevents further growth of the skull and affects the shape of the head and face.”

This rare condition was the subject of a recent episode that raised important questions about our fallen human nature and how social media can be the occasion for sin.

AliceAnn Meyer’s four-year-old son Jameson was born with Pfeiffer syndrome. For the past several years Meyer has been chronicling her experience with Jameson in a blog entitled “Jameson’s Journey.”

Two years ago she posted a photo of a happy Jameson with his face smeared with the remains of s’mores. To Meyer’s horror, people posted the picture on sites such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook with the caption “Your pug . . . is amazing.” Almost as bad as that were the thousands of “likes” the picture and the caption received.

Meyer asked the social media sites to remove the picture and caption and they complied. But like a demonic whack-a-mole, no sooner would one site remove the picture than it would appear somewhere else.

daily_commentary_03_08_16She took the miscreants head-on at her blog saying “you stole a photo of my 4-year-old son.” She continued “say what you want out loud, to your friends, in the comment box, but do not take my photo to degrade my child.” And then she challenged them to understand what they were laughing at by talking about Jameson and explaining Pfeiffer syndrome.

When my colleagues at BreakPoint first heard about this story, their first response was disbelief. “How can people do something like this?” Then we recalled original sin, which G.K. Chesterton, in his book “Orthodoxy,” called “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

This original sin, or human fallenness, includes a capacity for cruelty and injustice toward our fellow men. And for many of us, this capacity hovers just below the surface.

A large part of what restrains our sin are institutions like the Church, our families, government, and our communities.

Which brings me to social media. The anonymity of social media undermines the operation of these institutions. Friends and family cannot hold you accountable if they don’t know what you’re doing. Shame has no meaning to someone hiding behind a username. And of course virtually none of the people who trampled over Jameson’s dignity would have done so if they were face-to-face with him and his mom.

At this point, you might be expecting a disclaimer about how social media can be used for good as well as ill.

For the rest of the post…

Just ask Madonna! She needs our prayers!

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/03/madonna_the_diva_of_debauchery_reaping_what_shes_sown.html

One of my favorite scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies appears early in the Fellowship of the Rings when Frodo and company first encounter Aragorn. Frodo and his adventure mates were putting the happy in happy hour at the Prancing Pony Inn, frolicking, tipping mugs of ale, and generally making a public hash of themselves—foolhardy behavior for a party of hobbits and dwarves embarking on a dangerous clandestine mission. Frodo slipped the ring on his finger and instantly became invisible, took it off, and reappeared to an astonished audience of merrymakers. Aragorn appeared from a dark corner of the pub, grabbed him by the collar and slung him into a side room as if he were a side of beef. “Are you frightened?” Aragorn asked the wide-eyed hobbit. Frodo answered a breathless, “Yes.” Aragorn’s counter line is unforgettable, “Not frightened enough. I know what hunts you.”

Ringwraiths. That’s what hunted Frodo. The evil emissaries of the dark lord Sauron were searching meticulously for the ring bearer; they wanted to destroy him and capture the one ring that ruled them all. Indeed, Aragorn was spot-on: the naïve little hobbit did not know what hunted him. And his naïveté was anything but humorous: the future of Middle Earth hung in the balance.

That scene came to mind Thursday night as I watched the sad news about Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Josh Hamilton scroll across the screen: Relapsed, again. Drugs and alcohol, again. The sin that has hunted Hamilton since he was a teenager found him, again. I whispered a prayer under my breath: “Father, lavish your mercy on Josh Hamilton and his family. And have mercy on us. Let us never forget what hunts us.” I’m a big fan of our national pastime. I’m a big fan of Josh Hamilton. And like Josh Hamilton and Frodo Baggins, I, too, am hunted. I’m well aware that something hunts me, something deadly, an enemy I can only shake by unilateral grace: sin.

All-World Talent

Hamilton’s story is deeply compelling. At 18 years old, he was an all-world talent with a powerful bat that reminded some of Mickey Mantle and a howitzer arm that conjured memories of Roberto Clemente. He was the top overall pick in the 1999 draft, chosen out of high school in Raleigh, North Carolina, but Hamilton’s path to greatness was blocked by the twin demons of alcohol and drug addiction. Twice he failed drug tests, and on another occasion he was arrested after smashing the windshield of a friend’s car. Major League Baseball suspended him for most of three seasons from 2003 to 2005. His star appeared to have fallen.

But the effectual grace of God found Hamilton after this tumultuous period. God gave Hamilton new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His conversion also breathed new life into his baseball career. Hamilton made his Major League debut in 2007 with my beloved Cincinnati Reds. He was an instant star. During the past seven years he has become what scouts expected him to be from the beginning: one of the best players in the game. He led the perennially mediocre Texas Rangers to consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 and was named American League MVP in 2010. There were hiccups along the way, like a time in 2009 when he was photographed in a bar in a compromising position. And there was a seemingly small slipup 2012 when he admitted to drinking three beers. But Hamilton has mostly kept a strong witness for Christ. His family has helped build an orphanage in Uganda and established an outreach called Triple Play Ministries. Hamilton chronicled his fall and redemption in a 2008 book, Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back (FaithWords).

Hamilton has kept accountability partners constantly at his side while away from home. He travels with only a small amount of cash and carries no credit cards. His wife, Katie, shuttles him to and from the ballpark during home games. After the Rangers won the American League pennant in 2010, Hamilton celebrated with ginger ale rather than champagne. I once heard Hamilton quote the apostle Paul, saying that he does not want sin to have mastery over him. No follower of Christ does.

Core Disease

Despite all that, sin continues to want to rule over Josh Hamilton. It wants to rule over us all. As a follower of Christ, Hamilton no doubt knows and agrees. Paul Tripp puts it memorably:

Sin is every human being’s core disease. It is completely beyond the power of any human being to escape it. It separates you from God, for whom you were created. It damages every aspect of your personhood. It makes it impossible for you to be what God created you to be and to do what God designed you to do. It robs you of inner contentment and peace, and it puts you at war with other human beings. It renders you blind, weak, self-oriented, and rebellious. It reduces all of us to fools, and ultimately it leads to death. Sin is an unmitigated, almost incalculable disaster. You can run from a certain situation, you can get yourself out of a relationship, and you can move to another location and choose not to go back again. But you and I have no ability whatsoever to escape from the hold that sin has on us. It is the moral Vise-Grip that has held the heart of every person who has ever lived.

Hamilton’s story could be my story or your story. The world, the flesh, the Devil is an unholy trinity that hunts us all. His story is in the news because of his profession; ours is not. What should we take home from Josh Hamilton’s sad brush with sin?

  • Life between the times is brutal war. We face enemies within and without that relentlessly wage battle against us. We will not defeat them fully in this life, but in the next. Thankfully, Christ has defeated them for us. My own pastor, Tom Schreiner, preached a powerful sermon from 2 Corinthians 10 this past Sunday on this reality. Even Paul, in Romans 7, continued to be hunted by indwelling sin.

For the rest of the post…

“We may suffer the sins of our brother; we do not need to judge. This is a mercy for the Christian; for when does sin ever occur in the community that he must not examine and blame himself for his own unfaithfulness in prayer and intercession, his lack of brotherly service, of fraternal reproof and encouragement–indeed, for his own personal sin and spiritual laxity, by which he has done injury to himself, the fellowship, and the brethren? Since every sin of a member burdens and indicts the whole community, the congregation rejoices, in the midst of all the pain and the burden that the brother’s sin inflicts, that it has the privilege of bearing and forgiving.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together [1954]

“If my sinfulness appears to me in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

With our consciences distracted by sin, we are confronted by the call of Jesus to spontaneous obedience. 

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 ed., 86.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

It was his brother love of his fellow-men which also caused Bonhoeffer to believe that that it was not enough to follow Christ by preaching, teaching and writing. No, he was in deadly earnest when he called for Christian action and self-sacrifice. This explains why Bonhoeffer always acted spontaneously, “in hiding,” far from all publicity, and why he considered self-righteousness and complacency great sins against the Holy Spirit, and regarded ambition and vanity as the start of the road to hell. 

Memoir by G. Leibholz in  Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 23.

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