Slippery Slope

District Fellowship News

November, December 2010

So the question becomes, how does the frog recognize he is sitting in a pot on the stove instead of in the pond where he belongs (See "Hot Water")? Sometimes we are just foolish and we just jump straight into sin knowing full well that we shouldn’t be there, that there will be consequences, maybe thinking we can avoid them some way; but there are other times we start down a path that might be good or bad and if we can stop ourselves from sliding any further we should be okay. For example, an alcoholic should not drink, and in actuality should avoid liquor at all costs, and yet the real issue is drinking the alcohol not being in the presence of alcohol. Imagine if you will that you are standing on a flat line that extends backwards from you into the distance. In front of you the line is flat for a while and then begins a gradual descent until at some point ahead it steeply drops away. If you walk forward you come to the point where you gradually start to descend, and you can control your descent, but eventually if you go far enough ahead, your momentum with the slope and the gravity make it harder and harder to keep from going down the slope. 

Of course, if you knew where the line of safety was, you would never cross that line, right? You could keep going closer and closer to the point of no return and still feel safe from falling. But the truth is that God has given us guidelines to keep us from sliding down that hill. And that we like to go right to the edge and test the limits. Wouldn’t it be better if the alcoholic we spoke about before never had alcohol in his house, never visited a bar, never returned to the friends he used to party with? That would keep him on the flat plane away from the slope. He certainly could keep a bottle of whiskey in the house just to remind him about how bad drinking was. He could spend evenings in the bar sipping a coke. He could go to parties with his friends and be the designated driver. And none of these things would get him drunk again, but in each of those situations he would be on the slope headed towards the line he should not cross. If he made no effort, he would be sliding towards taking that drink and only by putting more and more effort into staying where he was could he stop from sliding. The alcoholic would make it harder on himself to maintain his good behavior.  

We are like this with sin. How many times have you had a comfortable guideline that kept you safe from sin and you said something like, “It won’t hurt if I….”, and then you stepped closer to the slope. In the book of Genesis we have the example of Joseph, who after being bought by Potiphar was put in charge of Potiphar’s household. Only two things are withheld from him, the food on Potiphar’s table and Potiphar’s wife. He is obeying the master, doing his duties, and not making decisions that could take him down this slippery path. Potiphar’s wife approaches and says something like,  “Hey good looking, I’m interested in having a relationship with you.” Now here is where we can see the difference between unavoidable circumstances and intentionally choosing to start down the slippery path. Joseph clearly states to Potiphar’s wife that he should not, would not, and could not take her up on her invitation. He does not play along, he doesn’t justify the possibilities in anyway. From the story it appears he does everything to alleviate being alone in the house with her. If we go back to the frog analogy, he recognizes that this is water in a pot on the stove not in a pond, and he will not step in. Of course, even with those precautions, she sends the servants away, calls him into the house and propositions him again. If he had started down the path, justifying some minor flirtation, stealing a glance when she was in the bath, then when she had him alone in the house holding his coat he would have been hard put not to slide down that slope. But instead he can once again say  no and leave the premises.

Contrast Joseph with King David who started down the slope to the murder of Uriah by justifying staying in the city instead of going to war with his men, and then going to the highest point of his palace to survey the city, and then he doesn’t turn away when he sees Bathsheba, inviting her to the palace, trying to cover up her pregnancy, and finally ordering Joab to withdraw when Uriah was in harm’s way and let him die. Of course he knew he was tumbling down the hill when he wrote the note to Joab but when had he hit the point of no return?  Was it the decision to stay in Jerusalem, or the decision to walk on his rooftop? What about not turning away from Bathsheba? As you can see, we know when he crossed the line, but it is harder to determine when he hit that place of no return. What we can know is that if he had followed God’s  guidelines he would not have made some of those decisions.  We may never know exactly where the point of no return is, but the secret to avoiding the “slippery slope” is staying within the guidelines God has laid out for us. He keeps us far enough from the edge that we won’t even start sliding.