In The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says that “the world, or the sinful society in which we live, is characterized by the subtle and relentless pressure it brings to bear upon us to conform to its values and practices. It creeps up on us little by little. What was once unthinkable becomes thinkable, then doable, and finally acceptable to society at large. Sinn becomes respectable, and so Christians finally embrace it.”
It happens just like that sometimes. I had been a Christian for only a few months when a serious temptation arose.
During my senior year in college, I lived with three other guys in an off-campus apartment. We had a constant stream of visitors – friends, girlfriends, fraternity brothers, campus political types (one of my roommates was active politically on campus), law school types (another of my roommates was in law school), even journalism types (I was a copy editor and managing editor of the campus newspaper). It was busy.
One of the people regularly dropping by had been at college for two or three years and was desperately trying to pass freshman English. He had flunked it several times. (You had to know him to understand; English simply wasn’t in his DNA.) During my last semester, as I began to realize I was graduating and needed to find a job, he came to me and suggested a quick summer job – he’d pay me to take freshman English in his name.
I had just become a Christian, but I wouldn’t have liked the idea anyway. It violated all kinds of university rules and regulations. It was unethical. It was immoral.
He was also offering $500. That was in 1973 dollars. For the purpose of perspective, my share of the apartment rent was $62.50 a month.
I said no. He kept trying to convince me. He pointed out I could buy an engagement ring with that $500. I still said no. He came up with other convincing arguments, including a rather innovative one of considering it as a charity. “Just think about it for a few days,” he pleaded.
I kept saying no, but I have to admit I considered it. “Lots of people do it,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe how common it is,” he said, promptly reeling off the names of well known people on campus who had done it before.
But I finally said a big final no, and getting a job out-of-state that started the day after my graduation in May clinched it.
He did find someone to take the summer course. And they got caught. Someone who had flunked freshman English four times was simply too well known to the English Department.
My friend engaged in a wearing-down process. He was persuasive and persistent. But what he was asking me to do was flat-out wrong.
The experience did teach me something. I need to be watchful, always watchful. Not only did I not know when temptation might come along, I didn’t know how vulnerable I might be when it happened.
I needed to watch for the temptation, and watch for my own vulnerability.
I still do.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. To see what others had to say on this chapter, “The Discipline of Watching,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.
Photograph by Linnaea Mallette via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.