I realized the other day, that at least six of my friends have had affairs.
And they’ve all told me the same thing:
“I was not attacked by a naked, hott woman who fell out of the sky.”
None of them were driving to work on an average Thursday, when suddenly, inexplicably they found themselves in the middle of an extramarital affair. Like a Lady Gaga video come to life, the roads were suddenly jam packed with hott ladies. It was borderline unavoidable when you think about it. It just sort of happened.
Sometimes, that’s how we like to pretend sin works. But it doesn’t. All of my friends said the same thing: “She gets me. You wouldn’t understand. We have a connection. This is different.” They all took little steps, but we hate to hear that.
We want to believe that we’re just going about a normal day when all of the sudden, that thing we struggle with, jumps out of the bushes like the spying little brother in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and surprises us. What? I embezzled money? How did that happen? What? I’m doing drugs? No! What? I’ve spent 6 straight hours watching Internet porn? Get out of here! How did that happen? I wasn’t even aware they had porn on the world wide webs!
Surprise is fun because it puts the blame on something or someone other than ourselves. You see that all the time in pop culture. A professional football player was recently accused of steroids. His excuse, “I didn’t do steroids, I have ‘over trained athlete syndrome.’” Or a professional baseball player once admitted using steroids but only for health reasons. Right. As in, “My salary would get healthier if I hit a lot more homeruns.”
Come on, sin doesn’t parachute into our lives like that. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. Sin is typically a death by a thousand cuts. It’s not a catapult moment. Not for us, and not all throughout the Bible.
In Luke 15, in the Prodigal Son story, we often assume that when the father paid the disobedient son his inheritance, he instantly jumped on a huge Wipeout style trampoline and jumped his way clear to prostitute town. But that’s not what happened, in fact verse 13 says,
“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.”
He packed his bags over a period of days and then left. He did little things. He arranged his stuff. He got ready. And then he left.
Lot is no better.
In Genesis 13:12, we’re told he “pitched his tents near Sodom.” A chapter later, we’re told “he was living in Sodom.”
That’s how life works sometimes. We tend to turn “near” into “in.” We spoon sin for a time. We flirt with it. But eventually, we give in. Emotional affairs tend to turn into physical affairs. Small pockets of gossip turn into gallons of malice. Cheating mutates into stealing. The little things give birth to the big.
So what do we do? How do we deal with this?
How do we remember to fight off the deadly geography of sin? The near vs. in issue?
I think we do what Joseph did.
In Genesis 39, Potiphar’s wife, who should have been on “Real Housewives of Egypt,” hits on him. As we discussed recently, he shot blocks her like the famous Boston Celtic Shaquille O’Neal. And then there’s a tiny detail that’s easy to miss. In verse 10, the Bible is keen on making a small, but critical distinction.
Here is what the verse says:
“he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.”
The last part is the key. “Or even be with her,” is the phrase that’s most interesting to me. Unlike Lot, unlike me a lot of times, Joseph increased the geography between himself and Potiphar’s wife. He didn’t act like nothing had happened. He recognized the small step, the small temptation and refused to give into the “lie of near.”
I can be near this thing without getting in trouble.
I can be near without going over some imaginary line I’ve made up.
I can handle near.
Lot couldn’t. Joseph couldn’t. I can’t.
Sin and temptation for me are like the raptors in Jurassic Park, constantly testing the fence to find a weak spot and work their way into my life. Online, offline, they are always poking.
And if I go down the path of near, I end up doing what the prodigal son did, I pack my bags. Maybe slowly at first, but it’s only a matter of steps until my suitcase is full.
If you’re packing today, I hope you’ll stop. If you’re telling yourself geography lies like, “I can handle this, I can survive near,” or “I’ve just got a flirty personality that comes out online,” I hope you’ll pull a Joseph and not a Lot.
I hope you’ll remember the truth about the geography of sin.