“And, if you play this record backwards, you can hear a voice saying ‘Satan has his own religion. Satan has his own religion.’”
“How awesome is that?” my friend whispered to me.
Our youth group was dragged to a series of lectures about the dangers of Rock Music. It was the late ‘80’s, when rock music was at its dangerestest.
We learned about subliminal messages heard while playing records backwards. I was never quite clear how backward messages were picked up by my subconscious. I don’t recall that ever being explained. However, the invention of the iPod seems to have put an end to this nefarious Satanic scheme.
We learned about album artwork and the dangerous occult symbols hidden in paintings of scantily clad women. I believe I saw more scantily clad women at this Christian conference than anywhere else at that point in my life.
We learned about highways to hell and all my friends being there to party. We learned about sex and drugs. It was quite the education.
It was firmly ground into our little heads that listening to rock music will make us a drugged up minion of Satan that impregnates scantily clad women.
Mostly what these lectures did was fill us with an intense desire to listen to rock music. My radio was soon moved next to my bed so I could quietly listen to AC/DC and Metallica without anyone knowing.
As I familiarized myself with rock music, I did no drugs, I worshipped no Satans, and much to my junior highish hormonal regret, impregnated no scantily clad women. Rock music was a giant letdown.
Kids don’t always know what they are doing or why. Adults appear to be authorities, people who have been around and know more. There is a responsibility inherent in adulthood: look out for those youngsters and help them out.
Unfortunately, adults lack sense ourselves. Although we know sin is dangerous, we can go overboard in explaining its danger. We revert to the worst case scenario. Tiny sins always lead to slippery slopes to doom, no exceptions, so BE AFRAID!
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, has been around the block a few times. In his treatise on the vanity of life, the Book of Ecclesiastes, he talks about sin and appears to be much less alarmed.
“Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?” Ecclesiastes 7:16-18
“It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath.” Ecclesiastes 9:2
Here, perhaps, is the clincher of all clinchers, Ecclesiastes 11:9a, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.”
Did you catch that one?! Solomon tells young men to follow their heart and go after everything they see! Really? That’s what the God-inspired Scriptures say to young idiot men raging in hormonal lust? “Go for it?” That’s the message?
Wow, I‘m glad Solomon was only a king and not a youth pastor.
But hold up a second. Solomon has a lot of other things to say about sin, too.
“Let not your mouth lead you into sin” Ecclesiastes 5:6a
“But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.” Ecclesiastes 8:13
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13,14
OK, now that’s better. Now we’re on safe ground with Brother Solomon.
But this is the same guy and the same book saying these things. How can Solomon, in the same breath, say that sin doesn’t seem to end up all that bad and yet also say we should pursue righteousness and avoid evil?
Solomon has two arenas in view. When it comes to temporal benefit, doing right and avoiding sin is mostly a waste. You will see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Avoiding sin and doing good doesn’t pay well on this earth.
But Solomon also speaks about sin in light of the eternal arena. When it comes to judgment day, your sin will cost you and your righteous deeds will win praise.
I quoted Ecclesiastes 11:9a earlier about letting young men sin. Look at the entire verse (include the “b” part) and see how it conveys this point:
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”
Yeah, OK young men, go for it. Live it up. Go get what you see and follow your ridiculous heart. Live it up. But remember, you’ll stand before God with that someday.
When it comes to talking about sin with young people, I think we should follow Solomon’s lead. Solomon has no problem telling young men that sin is kind of fun and more than likely you’ll get away with it.
Now, wow. Even I can’t quite see myself saying that. But let’s be honest. I remember the scare tactics used to get kids in youth groups to take purity vows and to abstain from pre-marital sex. We were constantly told what evils would befall us if we got a girl pregnant. Well, wouldn’t you know it; two young people in that group went out and had a baby outside of marriage.
They didn’t die. They didn’t lose their baby. They didn’t become Satan worshippers. They aren’t on drugs. In fact, 30 years later, these young people turned out quite normal. They are married, attend church, and have a well-functioning family.
As we are told, many young people leave the church once they get the freedom to do so. One of the many reasons why is because they have discovered that awful things generally do not happen when you sin. Oh sure, we can share the story about what happened to that one kid who is now on drugs and life is totally destroyed. It happens, but for the large extent, sin is something that happens and then life goes on. All those dire youth group warnings didn’t come true. What other lies did youth group tell me?
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew sinners often get away with sin and do fine. “In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.”
We must be careful to not overplay the dangers of sin. Stealing cookies from mom won’t necessarily lead to a life of robbing banks. I stole many cookies: I have yet to rob a bank.
Sin is bad. In no way is Solomon telling us to tell kids to go ahead and sin with impunity. What Solomon says is that sin is often overcome. Doing what is right doesn’t pay well on earth. But this earth isn’t all there is. Eternity is a long time and you will stand before God with all you’ve done. Sin and righteousness matter—this life may not prove it, but Judgment Day will. Layoff the heavy-handed “your life will be destroyed” doom about sin. Instead, point kids’ minds to eternity and their stand before God.