I’ve been mulling over some thoughts recently about what to write during the season of Lent.
Tonight I found myself with a simple question: Where’s the Line?
We need to embrace Holiness to draw close to God. As John Eldredge points out in his book”The Utter Relief of Holiness”, it’s a place we need to seek to find relief. But this destination means drawing a line between the Holy and the unholy in our lives.
I have a dear friend I care a great deal about – probably more than she realises in fact. She’s a good 15 years my junior, and I was delighted a while ago to hear she’d been baptised and committed her life to Jesus.
My question, however, concerns a part of a career choice.
She is a very attractive girl, and has some tattoos on her arms and body. I don’t have a problem with that as we live under Grace not Law, and she has excellent taste in graphics (what I’ve seen on her arms, anyway).
My problem is more where the line gets drawn.
She’s a model, and has a bright future ahead of her in that field if she chooses to pursue it, however having stumbled on some pictures of her online from a recent shoot I find myself questioning where the line is between displaying “art” and “titillation”.
The old adage sprung to my mind about knowing pornography when you see it. It alarmed me.
I don’t know if she follows my page, I don’t know if she reads this blog. The issue – although it has been brought home to me by the pictures of her – is not actually about her.
And I can’t stress that enough.
The issue is where we draw the line. Knowing her, I am certain her heart is not to cause someone else to fall into a sinful pattern. She’s an honest and sincere person. She sees the good in people and forgives past wrongs.
But there is a line.
Like I said, I have no problem with tattoos. If my wife didn’t object, I’d probably have one or two myself. That’s not the issue.
My thought is what Paul wrote about causing our brothers and sisters to stumble. An innocent action can still cause a stumbling-block to others. This article may turn into one of them.
I’ll try to move to more general issues.
I attended a church very briefly where the minister – his only income being the church’s pay packet apparently – arrived to the Sunday service in a brand new Mercedes “C” class. Beautiful car. Had it been a gift I would have rejoiced with him. A teacher I respect immensely, Dave Duell, was given a brand new Cadillac by a dealership that God inspired. Affluence is not inherently sinful. But the congregation had an average income of about $200 per month. To buy that car was insensitive at the very least.
Contrast that with my old pastor in the UK who drives (last time I saw him) a Porsche and has a large motorcycle (not sure, but may have been a Harley). Before he was a pastor he was a financial advisor – and an extremely good one. He didn’t use the income from the gifts to the “ministry” to line his pockets.
Like I said, a very different situation.
Affluence is not a sin. Modelling is not a sin.
But where does affluence become greed? Where does a shoot to show off body-art cease to be about the art and become about the body?
The pastor with the Mercedes lined his pockets. The church was evicted for not paying its rent. It was a good thing it ceased to exist. The pastor with the Porsche lives a humble existence. He only portrays himself as how God created him, and does what God has anointed him to do – nothing more, nothing less. After some time off, I recently heard he’s now leading worship in a new church, and I’m delighted. His gift for worship and his heart for Jesus are unmissable in conversation with him – even when he’s talking about his car!
I’ve met models and actors who struggle with the pressure the job puts on them to provide a photo-set that will sell. And these days “sell” often means “sexually arouse”.
So where’s the line?
For each of us it’s different.
I love bacon, but I don’t eat it around my Jewish (or muslim for that matter) friends. Oddly, one of them encouraged me to have a bacon sandwich last time we met up for breakfast as it’s not something he has an issue with. But where’s the line?
The line is where our behaviour causes – or may cause – another person to fall into sin, to impede their walk with God.
How many times today have I done that?
How many times in this article?
But I must be true to what my Spirit in my Heart tells me God is saying. I don’t “follow” the professional page of my friend the model as it is a stumbling block to me. I hate summertime in Africa – I simply don’t know where to look! “Women’s Right’s” groups regularly lambast men and use the argument that women should be able to dress and behave however they wish. I agree, but just as there are consequences to wearing nothing but a bathing suit when it’s -5 degrees outside, there are consequences to provocative clothing and images in the media. In a newsagent today I could not find a single magazine that didn’t have a set of photos on the cover of the “ideal” body (male or female), and why your “natural” shape wasn’t good enough.
I don’t have a visible six-pack. I was a dancer for 16 years, so my legs are well developed but I have a bit of a tummy above them, and more chins than I should have that I hide with a goatee. But I have muscle strength. It just doesn’t look like it.
I have beautiful friends who don’t fit the “fashionable” appearance (thankfully).
But where’s the line between healthy and “sexy”? Look at images in paintings from the renaissance. The women in the pictures had curves! Today they’d be considered “plus-size” models.
Where’s the line?
We cross it too easily. We envy, lust and covet, and the World disguises it as aspiration, attractiveness and desirability.
But the line is crossed. And we never saw it.
So have the tattoo. Buy the sports car. Or the luxury motorcycle.
Heck, I rode a Harley myself for three years. The look of horror on the salesman’s face when I traded it in, telling him that at the end of the day it was just a lump of steel with a wheel at each end was priceless!
It’s about the heart. I bought the Harley because they’re strong, hard-wearing and reliable. Yes, I like the style, but it wasn’t my primary reason. I wasn’t part of a club. I wasn’t looking to join a group. I just wanted a bike that was good quality. I’d actually seen a Yamaha for the same price and the salesman showed me the Harley as well, pointing out the practical benefits.
My friend the model may have the heart to show the artwork of her tattoos, but I’m uessing from the photos and poses that most of the viewers haven’t even noticed the tattoos.
My old pastor doesn’t make a big deal about his car other than to be grateful that God has provided it for him.
The heart will tell you where the line is for your own motives.
But we need to be mindful of what our actions will bring for others.
Will we make them stumble?
Will we cause them to cross the line in their heart?
If there’s even a possibility, perhaps we should consider other people’s lines and struggles before we act. I for one don’t want to inadvertantly push someone away from God.
Attitudes have alienated people from acceptance as individuals because they have a particular issue that is the current “fashionable” issue. Now it’s often homosexuality. Forty years ago it was divorce. Being rich, being poor, skin clour (as in tan, not ethnicity – that’s a different issue) have all been used to push people away.
Sex is a big one. Mental illness is another, but I’ll look at that later in Lent.
Find the line – but find where your line becomes a trip-wire for others. That’s the line to avoid.
I don’t want to offend people, but I’ll let my “yes” be “Yes” and my “no”, “No!” from here on.
Draw the line.