Sunday, March 16, 2014

Government of the eyes - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"But, above all, it seems right that we turn away from the sight of women. For it is sin not only to touch, but to look; and he who is rightly trained must especially avoid them. 'Let thine eyes look straight, and thine eyelids wink right.' For while it is possible for one who looks to remain stedfast; yet care must be taken against falling. For it is possible for one who looks to slip; but it is impossible for one, who looks not, to lust."(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
How much do you hate sin and how desirous are you of of overcoming its clutches? To what degree would you voluntarily go to avoid sin, to escape its stain, and to live a holy life? If sin were a cliff, are you one who would walk its edges,claiming it not to be sin, or are you one who would walk ten feet away from the edges knowing it is safety? Some, who know they should not sin, flirt with it, unable to make a clean break from it. Others, desiring a new life, refuse to look at it any more, to give it any thought, choosing freedom rather than indulging on the pleasure of memories. Sometimes our treatment of sin must be radical, as Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." (Matthew 5:29 NKJV) I had a married friend who realized that the only reason he was frequenting the corner convenient store was because of a certain young woman who worked there. While he had done nothing inappropriate, he yet realized the threat his actions posed to his marriage and his walk with his Lord. That night he went back and shared the Gospel with her and then never returned to that store. He cut off the threat of sin and removed it from his life. A radical move for one wanting to live a radical life.
"For it is not enough for the chaste to be pure; but they must give all diligence, to be beyond the range of censure, shutting out all ground of suspicion, in order to the consummation of chastity; so that we may not only be faithful, but appear worthy of trust. For this is also consequently to be guarded against, as the apostle says, 'that no man should blame us; providing things honourable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.'"(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
There is a difference, at least in the estimation of men, between being sinless and being holy. Some, being faithful to the commands of Christ demonstrate their rejection of this world and its sins. However, many have not yet learned the ways wisdom in submission to the teaching and counsels of Christ, not yet showing themselves as worthy of the Kingdom to which they have been called. It is not enough to avoid sin, but we must also embrace the wisdom and holiness of God. Someone once said that prudence is the knowledge to avoid sin while wisdom is the knowledge to do righteousness. Unfortunately, some stand in-between, avoiding sin but not yet producing righteousness.
"'But turn away thine eyes from a graceful woman, and contemplate not another’s beauty,' says the Scripture. And if you require the reason, it will further tell you, 'For by the beauty of woman many have gone astray, and at it affection blazes up like fire;' the affection which arises from the fire which we call love, leading to the fire which will never cease in consequence of sin."(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
There are those who will look, believing they can stand, yet others who will not look, knowing that they will not stumble. Job put it this way, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; jow then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1) How far do you want to leave sin behind? Far enough where you cannot touch it? Far enough where you no longer feel its lours? Or far enough where, in time, you will forget it? The choice is our and its consequences can be eternal. We all enjoy that rush of affection when gazing upon a pretty woman, but unjust love burns our soul and endangers us with a fire that will never be quenched. Far better to deny ourselves such illicit pleasures that to gain for ourselves the torments of judgment.

David Robison

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