Friday, December 27, 2013

The lure of the eye - The Instructor on those who live together

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 the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"On the whole, let young men and young women altogether keep away from such festivals, that they may not make a slip in respect to what is unsuitable. For things to which their ears are unaccustomed, and unseemly sights, inflame the mind, while faith within them is still wavering; and the instability of their age conspires to make them easily carried away by lust." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 7)
We must all know our oun limits and avoid exposing ourselves to temptations beyond what our Christian maturity is able to withstand. For example, a man recently freed by the Lord from his addiction to alcohol should not quickly return to the taverns to test his new found freedom. Similarly, one finding new freedom from pornography should not rush to the theaters to watch movies containing lewd and obscene scenes that might inflame his old desires. I have even know leaders of a Christian college age group that, on their member's 21st birthday, take them out drinking and many of themselves getting drunk. Are we not better than this? Is there not a better way to celebrate someone's birthday rather than drinking and drunkenness? Have we no care for the limits of our maturity and ability to withstand sin?
"Sometimes also they are the cause of others stumbling, by displaying the dangerous charms of their time of life. For Wisdom appears to enjoin well: 'Sit not at all with a married woman, and recline not on the elbow with her;' that is, do not sup nor eat with her frequently. Wherefore he adds, 'And do not join company with her in wine, lest thy heart incline to her, and by thy blood slide to ruin.' For the licence of intoxication is dangerous, and prone to deflower. And he names 'a married woman,' because the danger is greater to him who attempts to break the connubial bond." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 7)
More than just the things around us that may tempt us to sin, sometimes people can also cause us to stumble by their behavior and their exposure. Here Clement is referring to a woman's body as her "charms of their time of life." It was not uncommon for women attending such feasts as Clement is describing to dress very revealing and seductively, and when combined with wine, there was a tendency for them to "deflower" and to show even more. It is easy to be tempted and enticed when sitting next to a women who is dressing to reveal and shows more than she should. It is better to avoid all such parties, or at least to choose a seat somewhere else, then to bear the lure and temptation of a scantly dressed woman.
"But if any necessity arises, commanding the presence of married women, let them be well clothed—without by raiment, within by modesty. But as for such as are unmarried, it is the extremest scandal for them to be present at a banquet of men, especially men under the influence of wine." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 7)
Here is the instruction for women, let their bodies be well clothed as directed by their sense of Christian modesty. If a woman is single, they should be doubly careful about the parties and festivals they choose to attend, especially those where the presence of drunken men is to be expected. Far better to enjoy a quiet night at home than to risk the dangers of lust and drunkenness with partying.

David Robison

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