March 28, 2014

Singles: Just Because They’re Smiling, That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not an Assault

Gary Thomas — 
"smile" by Alice, Creative Commons

“smile” by Alice, Creative Commons

One of the greatest challenges we face in fighting sin is to accurately call sin, sin. We like to dress it up, pretend it’s something different or at least “neutral.” Or we excuse it, as something wrongly done with perhaps good motives.

In his marvelous book Renovation of the Heart (A book I wish every believer would read), Dallas Willard warns that there are two powers of evil that “absolutely must be broken.” These powers go to the root of alienation and woundedness and so we must be especially on our alert against them.

The first power that must be broken is assault. That seems obvious, on its face, but notice how Willard defines “assault”: “We assault others when we act against what is good for them, even with their consent.” We think of assault as “fighting” or “attacking,” but, according to Willard, assault can be unleashed in a moment of passion:

“It is not only when we harm them or cause them pain against their conscious will. Hence, seduction is assault, as is participation in or even compliance with the social structures that institutionalize wrongdoing and evil.” If we are acting “against what is good for them, even with their consent,” it’s assault.

It is all but impossible to watch a movie without the lead characters having sex within minutes (movie time, not real time) of “falling in love.” Our social structure puts the length between first kiss and first orgasm at about 27 minutes, apparently. Participating in that social structure, however, in Willard’s view, is an act of assault, not an act of love.

Emotional assault—unwisely pulling someone away from their social structure because the two of you can’t bear to not spend every minute together—sounds so romantic, and both parties seem more than willing (in fact desperate) to make it happen, but is it truly best for two individuals to put themselves and each other at such risk? Is it the wisest thing to do? And if not, might that not qualify as “assault”?

We can’t fight sin if we don’t think sin is really sin. Let’s look honestly at how we are treating each other. Let’s follow the path of biblical love, the only genuine love there is. If you’re seducing someone to whom you’re not married, you’re assaulting them, plain and simple. Even if you’re engaged to them. Or crazy about them. It’s still assault, even if they’re smiling while you’re doing it. If you’re blowing up their social life because you want to be not just the center of their life but practically their entire life (even though you’ve only just met), that’s assault, even if they answer every social invitation with an enthusiastic “yes.”

What, you might ask, is the other social power we need to concern ourselves with? Remember when I said I wanted every Christian to read this book? I meant it, so I’m deliberately withholding it. You can read about it yourself in chapter 10. (“Teasing” isn’t assault, by the way, not when it’s encouraging you to pursue a classic book on the basics of spiritual formation. )

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