We live in a time when it has become extremely unpopular to say that anything is wrong. From a young age our children are being taught that there is no right and wrong. "Everybody should be free to do whatever they want to do, and who are we to judge, right? You can't tell me what to do - it's my business. After all, if I am not hurting anyone else, then it's OK!" That kind of thinking is becoming so prevalent in our society that anyone who stands for righteousness and holiness is often labeled unreasonable and legalistic. This is true even parts of the church.
Legalism is a dangerous extreme, and we should carefully guard ourselves against it. This is especially true when it is not hard to see the growing lawlessness around us. We must keep in perspective that as we move closer and closer to the end of this age, the lawlessness will increase and the many people's love will grow cold (see Matthew 24:12). The answer to this is not to resort to rules and religious bondage, but to pursue a living relationship with the Lord.
Benjamin Franklin once remarked that "sin is not harmful because it is forbidden, it is forbidden because it is harmful." The very purpose for which we were created is a relationship with the Lord. He is the Source of true life, but sin brings death. Sin divides us from Him, and that is why it is harmful to us. The further from the Lord sin pushes us, the more death is released. The enemy understands this, and that's why he is working so hard to blur the lines between what is acceptable to the Lord and what will actually divide us from Him. As we are connected with the Lord, we become increasingly alive spiritually, but the further we wander away from Him, the more we will die spiritually.
I don't like to give the enemy any more credit than he is due, but at the same time, it is important that we don't allow ourselves to become ignorant or indifferent to how he operates. He knows that if we are pursuing the Lord, we are not going to turn away from Him all at once. The devil is content to distract and divide us from the Lord a little by little through a gradual process. Most of us would never take ten steps away from the Lord in a single movement, but if we do not stay on our guard, we can easily take a series of small steps over time.
This is how compromise works. The enemy will convince us to take a small step away from the Lord, and once we become comfortable in that place, he will coax us one step more. As this happens, our perception changes and we begin to feel that everything is OK. We will eventually become comfortable, no matter how many little steps we have taken, and the enemy will introduce more and more sin into our lives. Before we know it, we are much further from the Lord than we ever thought we would be. Many that are lawless haven't always been that way. They were once dedicated followers of the Lord who allowed a minor deviation from their walk with Him to go uncorrected. Over time it led them further and further away from Him, and they were becoming more and more unaware of it. We can see this painfully illustrated in the case of the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-22.
In this passage, Jesus explained to the Laodiceans that they had wandered so far from Him that they can no longer accurately discern their own condition. He told them that they had become "lukewarm" and were neither hot nor cold. They thought they had become rich and didn't need anything, when in fact, they were poor, wretched, blind, naked and miserable. This is the result of compromise, and it is all too often the case with many today. Our society, and many of our churches, are full of spiritually lukewarm people. This is one of the primary reasons sin has become so hard to identify.
Lukewarmness is a constant temperature, and it can be deceptive because it does take some heat to be warm. We all agree that we should never murder anyone or rob a bank. Thankfully, most of us haven't compromised to that point! However, it has become increasingly hard to raise standards in other areas. It is still a sin to look at pornography, but how many have compromised to the point that this has become commonplace. It is still a sin to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, but anyone who maintains that expectation is thought to be unreasonable in this modern age. Again, we have to understand that these acts, and others like them, aren't harmful because they are forbidden - they are forbidden because they are harmful. The Lord knows that these actions will separate us from Him and release death.
In conclusion, let me reiterate that the answer to the growing lawlessness and compromise is not religious rules and regulations. The solution is a relationship with the Lord. Sin is not just breaking some rule - it is an act that separates us from Him and begins to kill us spiritually. This will never change. It may even lead to our death naturally. What is the fruit of what we are doing? Are we having to constantly convince ourselves that it's OK? Does doing it mean we have to suppress the Lord's gentle conviction in our hearts? Is what we're doing in violation to the teaching of the Bible? If so, we need to stop and turn around! If we are going to be the individuals and the generation the Lord intends for us to be, we have to recognize sin as sin and turn away from it. The world needs life, and it is desperate need of people to be the salt and light Jesus has called us to be. We can only do this as we walk with Him and represent Him to the world. Let us press on closer to Him, and let's be that people.