Reasons to Believe

The Seven Deadly Sins, Part 3 (of 4)

This week RTB editor Sandra Dimas and I continue our discussion on the seven deadly sins and the contrasting virtues. Read part 1 and part 2 to see which vices and virtues were already discussed.

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Ken, so far we’ve discussed sloth, greed, and gluttony. Now let’s take a look at two more sins. Let’s start with how anger can become a sin. What does Scripture have to say about anger?

The Bible says, “In your anger, sin not.” Jesus became angry. He went into the temple and turned over tables. I’ll bet you Paul felt anger, too, when his dignity and the dignity of his companions was cast aside or by hypocrisy he saw in the religious leaders.

Considering this, what is an acceptable reason for someone to become angry?

Anger is sometimes a very appropriate response. For example, if somebody were harming someone I care about, being angry over that would be perfectly justifiable. I can tell you, though, it’s very difficult not to sin when your anger has reached a certain level.

When does anger become a sin?

I don’t know if you’ve ever been angry where you’ve lost control of yourself. I have. When this happens you are enormously vulnerable to do something you may regret for a long time. You’ve lost all of those resources that keep things in check. Anger can cause people to lose control over their actions—and unchecked anger could even lead to murder. Think of how road rage over this small little thing can lead to someone pulling out a gun. How vulnerable we all are when we lose control of ourselves. So, while anger is a good thing in the appropriate context, it’s such a powerful emotion that it could lead to some of the worst sins—either murdering someone or using slurs that degrade people.

What is the contrasting virtue to anger?

The contrast to anger is meekness, that is, composure or self-control. When Peter talks about doing apologetics he talks about doing it with gentleness and self-control.

In fact, 1 Peter 3:15 influences how we at RTB engage apologetics.

Right, and that’s a very powerful thing. When people hear your presentation, even if your arguments are good, if they think you have an arrogant attitude or you come across as impersonal, that affects persuasion. We’re persuaded for reasons other than just intellectual ones. We don’t often think of a champion apologist as being meek, but it’s certainly there and needed.

Yet people often misunderstand meekness as synonymous with weakness. Can you explain the distinction between the two?

I think in the minds of many people meekness means you let people push you around and don’t stand up for yourself. Jesus said, “I am meek and lowly of heart, take on my yoke. I’m gentle of heart.” It seems to me that there was nothing about Jesus that was weak. He could talk to the Samaritan woman at the well. He could touch the lepers. Or He could stand up to the religious leaders of His time. So I don’t think meekness involves letting people abuse you or push you around. It simply means having a deep sense of self-control and composure. It’s about treating other people with dignity because we are all made in the image of God.

Let’s now discuss the sin of lust and how that differs from sex.

Like the other deadly sins, lust is misusing something that was originally meant to be good. Sex according to the Christian worldview is a good thing. It’s a God-ordained thing. In fact, whenever Yahweh talks about His relationship to the covenant people, the analogy is marriage. When Jesus talks about His intimacy with the church, it’s marriage. So there is this sacredness to marriage and sexuality.

What sort of behavior would be identified as lust?

Sex becomes lust when it is out of control and out of the proper context of marriage. But it’s also lust when we use the other person for sexual pleasure rather than an expression of love and giving in charity. I think in our culture sex has become a type of idolatry. Pornography is a very serious problem and some of the statistics I’ve read indicate that even among Christian men pornography is a problem.

With the popularity of the book Fifty Shades of Grey (and its film adaptation coming out next year), it seems that lust is an issue for women as well.

You’re right.

How has sex become a type of idolatry?

By saying that sex is the end all, be all, as if your hedonism would bring this incredible fulfillment. In reality, when I have talked to people who have had multiple sexual affairs and relationships, they often seem very lonely and unfulfilled. Thus people have made the case that married people are happier.

What virtue contrasts lust? And how do we battle the sin in our lives?

That would be purity, which is self-control in a physical way. I think the power of sin points to the deep sense of grace. The only way we can be saved and the only way we can have godliness is through the gift of God’s grace—His love, His forgiveness, His empowerment.

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We will conclude this series next week with the deadly sins of envy and pride.

For more on the seven deadly sins, see Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David K. Naugle.

Subjects: Problem of Evil