Sometimes it’s tough to know where to draw the lines.
I’m talking about sin, of course. We live in the era of “If it makes you happy / it can’t be that bad” (see Sheryl Crow). Our culture has become so wishy-washy on areas of right and wrong, that nobody has the courage to say, “I think what you’re doing is wrong.” As Christians we need to stand firmly on what the Bible says is right and wrong, without caving to the culture.
But we need to make sure that what we’re standing for really is the truth. I think that most people have a sixth sense (I’m resisting the temptation to make a joke about seeing dead people) that lets them know when we are spouting our opinion on something, rather than proclaiming God’s word. If they think that we’re just pushing our opinion, they’re going to push back. After all, why is my opinion worth more than their opinion?
John R. Rice was one of the leaders of the fundamentalist movement in the 1930’s and 1940’s. This is what Andrew Himes says about Rice:
Rice was interested in cultivating and promoting a very specific type of preaching. It was preaching that pulled no punches. It was preaching that was sharp and clear, preaching that took a definite stand. It was preaching that could bring revival back to America. In 1940, one of his sermons titled “Evangelistic Preaching” appeared in The Sword of the Lord [Rice’s newspaper]:
Preach on booze. Preach on the scarlet sin, adultery. Some cheeks will turn red with shame, and some won’t like it, but it will bring people to repentance. Preach on the dance, tell people it is rotten as sin. Tell people they dance because they enjoy the lust, the deliberate inflamement of passion of the dance. They do!
I would agree with a lot of what Rice says. We need preaching that has guts and spine and conviction. We need to preach against the sins clearly spelled out in the Bible. Rice said we should preach against booze. If he meant drunkenness, I’m all for that! He said that we should preach against adultery. Yes John, yes! He said we should preach against dance!
Wait, what? Dance?
I understand what he’s saying. There are many dances that are inappropriate, and I’m sure that many people do dance for the sake of lust. But to call dance “rotten as sin” goes beyond what the Bible says and forces you to draw all sorts of lines in the sand that are purely arbitrary. For example, is ballroom dancing wrong? What about tribal dancing? Was it wrong when David danced in the Bible? And are you sure that everyone who dances is dancing for the sake of lust?
We can tell people that lust is wrong. We can tell people that, if dancing causes them to lust, that’s wrong too. But we can’t flat out say that dancing is sinful.
When it comes to declarations of right and wrong, each of us face two temptations. The first temptation is to be too soft on sin, and not take a stand for what’s right. The second temptation is to swing too far the other way, and to draw lines where God never draws lines. People can smell our opinion from a mile away. And people can disagree with my opinion. But they can’t disagree with the word of God. So let’s stand on the word.