RELIGION: Warning Labels

Fifteen years ago, newspapers reported: “A British Columbia-based nursery is trying to track down people who bought poisonous plants that were incorrectly labeled ‘tasty in soup.’  Valleybrook Gardens, which distributed the plants, has worked with government officials to locate the buyers of 17 improperly labeled perennials sold at stores in Lynnwood, WA, British Columbia and Ontario from April 18 to 25…. The label should have read, ‘All parts of this plant are toxic,’ but an employee changed it to, ‘All parts of this plant are tasty in soup,’ said Michel Benoit, the nursery’s general manager.  ‘The employee was making a practical joke and thought it would be caught by a horticulturist,’ said Benoit.”

It seems that “someone” has done the same to matters of sin or wrong or evil in our world.  God put a warning label on sin that read, “Don’t eat this; it will kill you.”  But “someone” seems to have switched the labels.  It seems that sins are often offered to us with this label: “Looks good. Tastes great!  Eat as much as you want!”

Likewise, it seems that “someone” has also switched the warning labels on goodness, holiness, and integrity.  The label that is usually shown to us on these qualities is “Boring, dull, outdated, repressive.”

Look more closely, though.  Is sin really as desirable as those labels read?  Is goodness really as bad as those labels suggest?  Or has “someone” switched the labels?

When we presume that sin is desirable and goodness is repulsive, we forget the character of the One who set the standards.

The One who calls us to be good is the One who said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  The One who calls us to live a holy life is the One who promised, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  The One who calls us away from sin is the One who declared, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

According to Jesus, it is actually better for us and more satisfying to pursue goodness than sin.

Colin Campbell puts this in proper perspective.  He writes, “Freedom does not mean the absence of constraints or moral absolutes.  Suppose a skydiver at 10,000 feet announces to the rest of the group, ‘I’m not using a parachute this time.  I want freedom!’  The fact is that a skydiver is constrained by a greater law—the law of gravity.  But when the skydiver chooses the ‘constraint’ of the parachute, she is free to enjoy the exhilaration.  God’s moral laws act the same way: They restrain, but they are absolutely necessary to enjoy the exhilaration of real freedom.”

The joy in parachuting comes precisely through the constraints of the parachute.

The greatest joys of life come in a similar way: Not by trying to escape the “constraints” God puts upon us, but by submitting ourselves to His will for us.

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Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: tomtripp@frontiernet.net