I have been social distancing for more than a month because of the coronavirus pandemic and I have gone a little insane. If only my favorite Mexican food restaurant and my hair and nail salons would open back up, perhaps things would be different. But as it is, I am losing my mind.
Ergo, I read an article suggesting that pets could acquire the virus, so I went online. I innocently googled “puppy masks” believing that Oscar and I could procure matching protective gear. You can imagine my horror when something called “puppy play” intruded on my screen! I had no idea what it was. Although I didn’t intend to start my day off with pictures of half-naked men wearing puppy tails and – you guessed it – puppy masks, that is exactly what happened. Of course, I didn’t click on anything but geez ….
So, there you go. It’s that easy. Something innocent can accidentally lead to something obscene and before you know it, you’re calling your best friend to tell her that you may have accidentally watched pornography. You are fully convinced that Google believes you to be a pervert. Needless to say, I was devastated.
I think the greatest feeling in the world is learning something one day that you didn’t know the day before. But today I am overwhelmed by the fear of “what if I only get to learn one new thing a day?” What if I wasted my “one new thing” on something called puppy play?!
In a panic I think I can erase the experience by intentionally learning something new, but no. I will need to consult an encyclopedia to learn my next new thing. Because if I only get 6 accidental naughty searches before Google flags me as dirty, I cannot risk another flag in the same day. I only have 4 left because of an unfortunate Dr. Seuss incident in 2016. Don’t ask. I’m not even sure it works that way but just in case, I’ve decided that I will turn my computer off for the rest of the day.
Let’s examine my experience as it pertains to sin. Did I sin? I would say no. I didn’t look at the pictures or click for further examination. It wasn’t a temptation to me at all and yet I beat myself up! I just felt yucky!
We will, however, face temptations in life. We are flesh and the flesh will sometimes encounter things that bring us to people, substances and distractions that have the potential to lead us astray. We will feel angry, jealous and bitter from time to time, but we can’t dwell on these things.
We have to consciously make a decision not to “click” on temporary things that pull our attention away from the eternal. The sin is not in being tempted, it’s in acting upon those temptations. If I were to google “puppy masks” again knowing what would show up, THAT would be a sin. Rather we should choose not to “enjoy the fleeting [temporary] pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25, ESV) We should instead focus on goodness and heavenly virtues.
It seems to me that if Satan cannot cause us harm by enticing us to sin, he then causes us harm by shaming us for being tempted in the first place. Scripture on the other hand tells us that to be tempted is not a sin. Jesus was tempted! When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the “tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command theses stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3). Jesus had fasted 40 days. He was hungry. Yet, He did not inquire as to whether the stones would make better wheat, raisin, or rye bread! He didn’t entertain the temptation at all! He immediately used scripture to put the devil in his place- a very good reason to learn and memorize scripture.
The truth is that we are drawn away by our “own desire … then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15). Temptation should be avoided when possible. Don’t put yourself in situations to be tempted. Sometimes that means turning the computer off for the day. Sometimes that means not going where alcohol will be served. It means different things to different people.
But inevitably, we will encounter situations in which we innocently end up on the wrong side of things. And while the devil will tell you that you should feel guilty and shameful, God will tell you to count it a joy in that “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect…” (James 1:3-4).
This does not mean that we should become proud when we withstand temptation – for even our righteousness is as rags (Isaiah 64:6). Rather, that by withstanding temptation, we have confirmed the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and demonstrated that we do not live in the flesh but in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
Do not become or remain a slave to shame. God offers forgiveness. I heard it said once that God forgives all sins- past, present and future. All sin was future sin when Jesus died on the cross to redeem us and to restore us to Himself. This gives great hope to believers!
Let us pray that we will not enter into temptation. But when we accidentally Google something we don’t expect, let’s receive forgiveness and move past it quickly! Let’s also remember to be kind to others because we don’t understand the circumstances that led them to destructive decisions – it could have been a series of innocent mistakes.
Let’s all be careful what we “click on!”