PASTOR'S PEN: Trying to tell between good and evil

I took my children rafting on the Manistee River last week. The big Manistee with its deep, cool currents was teeming with life both in the water and around its banks. The banks themselves were adorned with magnificent trees promising expansive shade, and varieties of soft grasses pushing up towards the sky. Newly budding flowers were hinting at their hopeful beauty and thick, hearty bushes were blossoming with life. Even the air was saturated with smells of spring newness. Crisp clean beginnings blended with the shining sun as it bathed us in heavy, brilliant rays.

Floating peacefully along, delighting in the calming, harmonized splendor, we noticed a small creek. It snaked back into what looked like a twisting valley. We became intrigued by the thought that just around the corner there might be a secret pool filled with life. Perhaps it was overlooked by the rest of humanity, just waiting for us to discover it and share with our friends. Leaving behind the living river of the Manistee, lured in by curiosity, we began following what was apparently a stagnate, still creek. It had as its source, unbeknownst to us, a putrid, poisonous swamp originating from the dark, deep, muddy walls of the surrounding valley.

As we walked along the anemic, tapering creek, we moved deeper and deeper into the valley. It began winding this way and that, until we could go no further. Suddenly, looking up and around, we discovered we had inadvertently twisted ourselves into the deepest part of a miserable, stinking, miry swamp. No flowers, no bushes, no grasses and no beauty. The only life here were creeping creatures quickly scurrying lest they be discovered by the light. Surrounded by barkless, beetle infested trees, threatening to unpredictably crash down upon us, we decided upon a speedy retreat.

The surest way back to the deep, strong, living waters was to take the high ground. We climbed up the valley walls and simply followed the valley finger which pointed us right straight to the river. Allured by curiosity and what seems, from a distance, to be a pleasant path to a secret, refreshing pool, we often find ourselves inadvertently trudging through a poisonous, foul swamp. It’s easy to recognize a putrid swamp when you’ve been resting near a thriving river filled with life, beauty and light. But what if, somewhere along the trail, you got lost in the swamp and couldn’t find your way out? Even worse, what if you’ve never even seen the river? What if your whole life has been lived in the swamp?

We live in a world where it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between good and evil. Moral relativism drives the foundational world view of our culture and has now for more than 50 years! The majority of the last two generations have only ever known the swamp. Your way, my way, your truth, my truth – philosophers say it’s all just an illusion. Recently, my sons were watching a pirate movie and the younger asked the older, “Who are the good pirates?” The older responded with insight, “There are no good pirates, all pirates are bad.”

When did the cruel, self centered, arrogant thieves replace the noble, sacrificial and righteous as our heroes? It was when it became impossible to tell the difference. Our culture arrogantly trumpets the sweeping aside of archaic moral absolutes. But sweep aside the foundation, and the structure collapses into a swamp of moral ruins. The prevailing philosophy of men challenges, twists and rejects the refreshing, deep currents of God’s Eternal Words. But the substituted, stagnate creek will inevitably steer the unsuspecting into miry, poisonous pools.

The authority of God’s Word gives us that only true, unfailing moral compass. Take a look around your life, your relationships, your hangouts, your habits, and most importantly, your heart. Are you pleasantly comforted by the harmony? Is there a sense of rest that goes deep down to the soul? Is the air filled the smells of spring newness? Are crisp, clean beginnings blending with the shining sun, bathing you in heavy, brilliant rays? If not, you may very well have wandered away from that refreshing, deep, river of life. Beloved, take the high ground – God’s Word will point you in the right direction.