Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Morality & The Shield

This is the first in what I hope will be at least a three-part series on the subject of morality & ethics that includes meditations from one of my favorite television dramas, "The Shield." I promised this was coming about 10 months ago, and now I'm finally getting around to it. This is a subject that I often think about, as evidenced by having written about this subject before. And I'd love to encourage dialogue in the form of comments here or on your own blogs.

It occurs to me that one of Satan's greatest psychological weapons, among his considerable arsenal, is twisting humanity's sense of what is good and evil. No one is immune. From among those whom we would consider the greatest sinners to those among whom we would consider the greatest saints & do-gooders, Satan works to twist our sense of righteousness. Given my own & my readership's ideology, I'm most interested in how Satan seeks to twist a Christian's understanding of morality.

Some time ago, I came across this illustration from a sermon.

Writer & speaker Joni Erickson Tada was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident. In her book "Secret Strength", Joni wrote about facing temptation.

"I was in my late 20’s, single, and with every prospect of remaining so. Sometimes lust or a bit of fantasizing would seem so inviting and so easy to justify. After all, hadn’t I already given up more than most Christians just by being disabled? Didn’t my wheelchair entitle me to a little slack now and then?"

Joni went on the ask her readers:

"When God allows you to suffer, do you have tendency to use your trials as an excuse for sinning? Or do you feel that since you’ve given God a little extra lately by taking abuse, that He owes you a "day off?"

Hard times can often lead to temptation... In our suffering the evil one is quick to come to our aid and offer one of his solutions; pursuing pleasure to numb the pain, copping an attitude, becoming bitter, getting even, feeding anger...

Vic Mackey
Vic Mackey IS the law
She's spot on.

One of my favorite television dramas is FX's The Shield. The main character is Detective Vic Mackey, the checkered leader of an experimental anti-gang & drug unit called "The Strike Team." Mackey is good at what he does. He gets results. But he's also in on the take, and Vic rationalizes this practice in a number of ways (e.g. busting down rival drug dealers in certain territories while taking a "tenant's fee" from the drug dealer that he feels he can regulate, so as to keep drugs from completely flooding the streets). Another one of the ways he rationalizes this is how good he is at what he does. In an episode from a recent season, Vic finally pours out his heart concerning why he skimmed off the top, AND why he came clean. He says this:

"It was easy, alright. NO fuss, no victims. I was clearing twice as many cases as anyone here [...] The city was getting their money's worth, trust me.

"But I quit ... because I still wanted to be a cop! Because I can do better."

Fighting for right means not participating in wrong on the side from time to time.

I've experienced this temptation myself. With a group of ministers yesterday in our weekly accountability & encouragement meeting, a couple other ministers gave voice to that temptation. One stated, "I spend all day going & doing for everyone else. When I come home, I want to veg on the couch while my wife serves ME."

It's a form of pride. Effectively, what we're saying to God in those moments is this:

Hey, God, enough already! Alright? I've filled my quota for the day. Get someone else to do your bidding for a while; I've given you plenty. And don't give me that tired, old "Jesus gave it all" line. Six hours one Friday... BULLL-logna. I'd like to see Jesus do what I do.

In those moments, we don't have in mind that Jesus became poor so that we could become rich, that He did for us what we could not do for ourselves, and that everything we have is because of Him. We just want what we want.

There is no viable rationalization for plain, old selfishness. That "old man" (Rom. 6:6) wants to creep back in, get back a foot-hold, and rebel against a soul surrendered to God's will. No amount of do-gooding earns anyone a free ticket to sin. When we begin to think that we can reward ourself by making a wrong decision, we're treading into enemy territory.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Great stuff! I am really happy that you are posting more regularly. I always love to hear what you have to say! There are two sides at war. As they say, the one that wins is the one you feed.