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Stop Swiping, Start Serving

Stop Swiping Start Serving

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that in the past few weeks, you have probably not gotten rip-roaring drunk nor participated in a debauched drinking party. You have probably not given yourself over to rampant sexual immorality or a life obsessed with sensuality. At least, I hope not.

I raise these particular issues because Paul raises them in his letter to the Romans. As he helps the Christians in Rome understand how the gospel is meant to work itself out in life, he lists three pairs of sins that are unfitting for Christians. “Let us walk properly as in the daytime,” he says, “not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (13:13). It seems to me that if he went to the trouble of listing such sins, we should go to the trouble of considering them—and not only as vague representative sins that other people may be tempted to commit, but as actual sins that may be present in your life and mine, whether subtly or explicitly.

It is my understanding that what binds these sins together is that they are a failure to love. After all, Paul makes clear that the great implication of the gospel he has outlined in the opening chapters of Romans is love! Your duty, your calling, your responsibility, your privilege is to love others as a display of God’s love for you. And each of these sins represents a failure to do so.

And so you can’t love others when your life is marked by drunkenness or partying. And what stands behind these sins is a desire for escapism. It could be bingeing on alcohol or on Netflix, on video games, or on social media—whatever causes you to lose control of your time and devote too much of it to pursuits that are ultimately vain and distracting. If you are utterly devoted to addictive substances or addictive entertainment, that will necessarily diminish your willingness and ability to love others.

You also can’t love others when you’re given over to sexual immorality and sensuality. By definition, when you commit sexual immorality you are using other people instead of loving them. You become captivated by that sin so that your focus in life becomes satisfying yourself instead of blessing others.

And then you can’t love others when you are quarrelsome or jealous. That’s because you are failing to love others with your words and attitude. I think I’ve met more quarrelsome people in Reformed churches than anywhere else in the world. Quarrelsome people usually think they are wise or discerning or otherwise gifted by God, but more often they are prideful and rebellious. They get pleasure from an argument, they gain satisfaction from playing devil’s advocate. And often at the root of it is jealousy—they are jealous of what other people are or what other people have. If that’s you, you need to consider that being quarrelsome is not some minor peccadillo, but a major transgression that is listed alongside drunkenness and adultery. You need to put such sins to death and direct your passion, your time, and your intensity to loving other people and devoting yourself to their good.

What does it say about you if you know more about the controversies in the wider church than the needs in your local church?

I recently found myself pondering this: How many men could be serving as elders in any given church, except that they have sold themselves out to sexual immorality? Or how many men and women could be serving as deacons in any given church (if that church opens the office of deacon to women), except that they’ve devoted vast amounts of time to hobbies or games that just don’t matter that much? Or how many church members could be leading important ministries, except that they spend hours on social media thinking that some daft controversy on Twitter in any way impacts the real world? And all the while there are people right before them who need to be loved and cared for and shepherded. The local church desperately needs qualified elders, committed deacons, and faithful ministry leaders, but so many have disqualified themselves.

What does it say about you if you know more about the controversies in the wider church than the needs in your local church? Hear it from me: the real troubles of the real people in your real church have nothing to do with what happens on Twitter or YouTube. The more time you spend clicking and scrolling and swiping, the less you’ve got to give to the people you have covenanted with, the people you can actually impact, the people who need to be loved. Your church needs people who are experts in love, not experts in controversy and celebrity. Put away whatever is captivating you when you should be captivated by Christ. Stop swiping and start serving!

Stop swiping and start serving!

Indulgent sins, sexual sins, social sins—all these are a failure to love. If you’re in bondage to any of these sins, plead with God for his help in putting it to death. But don’t stop there. Consider how as you labor to diminish the power of that sin in your life, you will at the same time increase love in your life. Consider how you can replace self-indulgence with expressing love to others, self-centeredness with a life of blessing and serving others. For this is why God made you, why he called you, and why he saved you—so you could live a life of doing good to others for the glory of his name.


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