We live in times when stupidity, ignorance, and willful misconduct are excused as "the right to choose" or "the unfortunate behavioral implications of previous abuse." As a society, we seemingly have lost the profound sense of sin! All around us, people appear to break our laws and abuse other citizens only to have their misbehavior excused and their crimes unpunished. Even our legal system, long the example to the rest of the world, is losing the respect of our American citizens as we see criminals and deviants "get off" for the smallest and most insignificant details. One could rightfully wonder if we're losing our sanity as a culture!
Probably our greatest problem with sanity in our times has to do with our refusal to deal with sin. Our culture.....and, sadly, many in the Church who call themselves Christians, appear to have lost the ability to distinguish good from evil. Behavior goes from the mildly mischievous to the criminally horrid. At an age when childhood sensitivities should be tender and forming, an increasing number of children exhibit unashamed cruelty and even murder! For others, actions that we've always known were wrong are said to be right. Many college students have little or no ability to make moral distinctions or engage in ethical deliberations outside of inane statements like, "Well, like, I feel that....." or "I just don't feel that _______ is right." Are we just becoming insane?
The answer, partially, is YES! We're becoming insane with sin! The moral capacity inherent in humanity's being created in the image of God is being corrupted by the practice of sin. As a consequence, even the Church is downgraded in the quality of its life and profession before the world! We flaunt the prohibitions, warnings, and impediments placed in our path calculated to keep us safe and secure from the repercussions of sinful behavior.....AND we wonder why bad things happen to people!
In early 1988 Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales, and some friends took a skiing trip to Switzerland. The shocking news came one afternoon of a terrible accident caused by an avalanche in which one of the prince's lifelong friends was killed and another seriously injured. It seemed sheer chance that Prince Charles himself was not killed or hurt.
How did it happen? A day or two later the press reported that the Charles' group had chosen to ski out on slopes that were closed to the public. The avalanche warnings had been posted, but the group had chosen to go beyond the fences because, as one of them observed, that's where the optimum fun and excitement were to be found. Most likely, they found a brand of pleasure that was indeed more than attractive. However, it went beyond the margins of what was wise and prudent. Predictably, the avalanche exacted its price among those who went beyond the fences. The result? Several broken worlds.
The verse above, as most recognize, comes from the story of the Prodigal Son. The youngest son of the father in the story demands his inheritance even before the father dies---and the father hands it over to the ingrate. In keeping with his youth and stupidity, the young son leaves home, wastes his inheritance with "wine, women, and song," and finds himself destitute. He is far from home, without friends, without station in life, and without the means to maintain himself appropriately. In desperation and at his lowest ebb, he finds himself working for a swine farmer feeding pigs and envying their food! Life for a young Jewish man doesn't get much worse than this! With the loss of inheritance and every shred of dignity, the verse above appears in the Scriptural text. His sin and debauchery have been like an insanity that gripped and degraded his life. His life has become a living hell!
But, wait.......there's hope in the story. It says "he came to himself!" There is hope for all of us. When we get a good picture of ourselves as we REALLY are, we can do something about our moral and physical circumstances! The rebellious son was no longer simply stupid and dull of conscience......he "came to himself." God allowed the glow of His grace to reveal what an idiot the young man was.
We don't have to stay where we are when we realize our sins. We CAN return to a loving father who welcomes us. The most sane thing we can do when we find ourselves in an insane world is to return to the sane place where home lies. It requires a change of heart about our lives and our actions.
The young man knew he had wronged God and wronged his father. He determined to confess his sin to both. And: his mental determination was turned to living actions. He "got up and went...."
This week as all of us find ourselves in the insanity of sin, may God allow us to see ourselves as we really are! May we have the good sense and God-enabled grace to confess our sins, make things right with people we've wronged, and "go home" to where sanity is the norm. No matter what your moral or spiritual circumstances are---there's hope! May God give us all the grace to "get up and go" when we fail this week! You know, that really is the way to be sane in an insane world!