It’s hard, when you are up to your armpits in alligators, to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.
— sanitized ver. att. to Ronald Reagan
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one that betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “if I will that he wait till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
— John 21:20-22
In my earliest days as a Christian, I believed that it was incumbent on me to show how much disdain I had for certain things that are clearly forbidden in the Bible. I’ll spare you the laundry list, but it took some time for me to realize that that’s not what the walk with Christ is about. Jesus has a very clear and simple assignment for us.
Love one another and spread the Gospel.
That’s it. And being one of His followers is not demonstrated by declaring what you dislike.
In a way, I guess that’s to be expected of a newly-saved person: repudiating his or her past life and in so doing, trashing both their own previous actions and anyone else who thinks or acts that way. But as one matures, one realizes that being a Christian is about demonstrating and proclaiming a way to live — not discrediting the many ways not to live.
And in this world, you know you can find plenty of ways not to live; things that offend God because they’re forbidden in the Bible; things that are based in greed and the love of money or the desire to hate others. It becomes like that slot-machine game called “Whack-a-Gator” (“Whack-a-Mole”, only with alligators, not moles.): you put a quarter in the slot and take a mallet; one alligator sticks its nose out of a hole and you whack it; then another appears, and you whack that; then a third comes out, and you belt it; then the first one comes back, and on and on.
Presently, the time runs out, the alligators never did stop appearing, you’re worn out from swinging that mallet and you’re also out a quarter.
So it is, with “sin-focused” Christianity. There is a never-ending stream of sins and other offences appearing; we whack one and another appears, and on and on. Whereas, in reality, our job — our swamp-draining assignment — is to spread the Gospel. We actually can’t afford to be distracted by alligators nipping at our hindquarters. We have to look forward and upward — not downward and behind ourselves at the alligators.
We concentrate on draining the swamp, and Jesus promises He’ll take care of the alligators. And what happens when we drain the swamp? The alligators die of exposure!