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The Pleasure Principle(s) – of the non-Janet Jackson variety

January 19, 2012

I love Ravi Zacharias.  My husband got me some awesome Bose headphones ( my “cans”) for Christmas and I listen to RZ’s podcast all the time.  He’s a genius (and the accent is nice too).  His two part series “The Problem with Pleasure” was fantastic. It’s an important thing to think about.  The World will tell you that pain is ruining our society – that suffering and violence and terrorism and disease will destroy us.  But actually, it is unchecked pleasures that are ruining us.  The sinful pleasures of the world are so available, so prevalent, so encouraged, so accepted.  Any pleasure you want is within reach, a few clicks/a few dollars away.  And there’s so little conscience anymore.  We feel entitled, we make excuses, we justify.  Worst of all, we view shame and guilt as psychological constructs rather than tools of accountability, legitimate (de)motivators, or even the presence or voice of God in us.

I was thinking about this in relation to things we all easily accept as legitimate pleasures.  Trashy reality television, ultra violent movies, third helpings of dessert, bad language, drinking until drunkenness, immodesty… I could go on.  Sin, or “guilty pleasure”?  Is there a difference?  Or is guilty pleasure just a euphemism for sin?  RZ gives three principles for deciding what is legitimate pleasure:

  1.  “Anything that refreshes you without distracting from, diminishing or destroying your ultimate goal is a legitimate pleasure.”  – your ultimate goal being, of course, salvation and eternity.  Pay attention to the “distracting from” part – that is huge.
  2. “Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure.”  – i.e. does it make your brother/sister in Christ stumble?  Like that shirt that’s a little too tight or low.  That joke you shouldn’t tell or gossip you shouldn’t share.  The beer you drink in front of someone who battles alcohol as a temptation.
  3. “Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality and destroy appetite making it an illicit pleasure.” Basically anything in excess can be sinful.  Watching TV to the point where you cannot fall asleep without it on.  Drinking Diet Coke to the point where you get headaches without it.  Even exercising so much that you lose touch with your true priorities.  Things that are innocent on their own can be sinful when abused, ruining your appetites and distorting your reality.

He also quoted Susanna  Wesley (John’s momma)’s definition of sin – “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience,obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”  

Also, I think part of it just comes down to the old standard WWJD?  Not every modern situation is illicitly spoken about in the Bible.  Common sense is a great tool, however, and it’s pretty obvious Jesus would not watch “Jersey Shore,” spend $200 on a pair of jeans, or finish off a whole pizza on His own.  So filter everything through these principles and you can probably see what you need to change in your lifestyle (and I in mine).

Jiminy Cricket was right about letting your “conscience be your guide.”

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