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Faith and STDs

Faith and STDs

Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it. Genesis 49:3-4

In my early adulthood, I had this naive belief that I could never do anything to permanently harm my marriage or career. That will never happen to me. I just knew that I’d never get divorced or be fired from a job, and I certainly never thought I’d become addicted to drugs. This stemmed partly from the ignorant invincibility of youth, but some of it originated from a misunderstanding of my faith. I believed in God, and that I’d been forgiven for my sins for all time, so I errantly believed that God would never punish me – that he’d forever cut the strings between action and consequence. Then, in the disastrous repercussions of my addiction, as I was losing my job and family, there came this terrible realization that this was really happening. What!? This can’t be real! I’m a Christian!

I often see a similar response in clinic. When I must inform a patient that they’ve contracted a sexually transmitted virus that will never go away, they invariably respond in disbelief – This can’t be happening. They almost demand that I fix it, but there’s no undoing it. It’s permanent and it will change them for the rest of their lives. One moment of indiscretion has caused consequences that will never go away. It’s not fair. This can’t be real.

Here’s the painful reality of our self-destructive appetites though – they’re self-destructive, and sometimes that destruction is permanent. This principle was illustrated in today’s passage. In it, Jacob was on his deathbed when he summoned his sons for a final blessing. He started with Reuben, his firstborn, who should have inherited the eldest son’s blessing and birthright. Instead, though, Jacob told him that his inheritance was forfeit. Why? Because of Reuben’s sexual indiscretion years prior when, in an incestuous act, he slept with his father’s concubine. It’s an event that was barely mentioned back in Genesis 35, but Jacob remembered, and that one act of lust forever changed the trajectory of Reuben’s life.

Our self-destructive appetites are, by definition, self-destructive. Faith doesn’t mean our corrupt desires are instantly gone. If we had an appetite for the unhealthy before we came to faith, we will still find those things attractive. Finding eternal forgiveness in Christ also doesn’t mean that we cannot face painful consequences in this life. If I rob a bank today and then find faith, I’m still going to prison. Faith means believing in God and daily abandoning our way for his. We still, however, have the freedom to follow ourselves. When we do, we will find painful, and sometimes permanent, consequences.

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