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How Should We Respond to Things that Make Us Stumble?

In a recent Washington Post article, Jacob Brogan admitted that he is “ashamed of the way [he] is on Twitter.”


The way he tells it, almost everything about his experience with Twitter is a source of shame, from the things he writes on Twitter to his insecurity and the way that Twitter reveals his need for approval. He’s even ashamed of the fact that his mother has four times as many followers than he does!


His “clearest consolation,” he says, is that he’s “far from alone” in his Twitter-induced shame, and, by way of examples, cites people like ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, who was suspended after a Twitter fight with Penn State fans.


Brogan’s misgivings about himself and Twitter is his springboard to discuss shame in the age of social media. And so, he repeats, he is ashamed of his Twitter persona and then adds “you probably are too.”


While Brogan’s self-examination is praiseworthy, it does make me think “Dude, why don’t you just get off Twitter for a while!” After all, what he’s describing is what moral theologians call an “occasion of sin.”


The Catholic Encyclopedia New Advent describes “occasions of sin” as those “external circumstances . . .  which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin.”


Now, calling something an “occasion of sin” is not the same as saying that it’s the cause of sin. The cause of sin is human fallenness and the “perverse human will.”


But there are settings and circumstance that make sin more likely than others. That’s why the Apostle Paul urged Timothy to “flee from youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”


On one level this should be obvious, the stuff of common sense. For instance, a person who struggles with lust (and probably even those who don’t) shouldn’t subscribe to Maxim or pick up the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Recovering alcoholics shouldn’t visit wine bars, and those struggling with covetousness should avoid the Robb Report.


But for some reason, it’s just not as obvious that our mass consumer and entertainment culture has become for many one big occasion of sin. Last Autumn, Eric Metaxas described on BreakPoint the way that carmaker Lexus happily told television audiences “that the ‘F’ series will provoke lust, unleash wrath, incite envy, and elicit pride.” That’s four of the “Seven Deadly Sins” right there.


Of course, I’m not saying that buying one of these cars is a sin. But the commercial is just another indicator of how, to rephrase the old saying, “sin sells.”


And it isn’t only advertisers. Most of the people and institutions competing for our attention these days do so by appealing to our feelings like fear and anger, as well as lust and pride. And virtually none of them urge us to think about what is pure, lovely, commendable or praiseworthy.


Now this doesn’t mean that we should automatically shun Twitter or other social media. I certainly hope you follow me, Eric and BreakPoint on Twitter and Facebook. But it does mean that we should be aware of our weakness and intentional about how we and where we spend our time.


Our adversary is, as Scripture reveals, a roaring lion, an ambush predator. And just as zebras avoid places where lions like to hide, we should avoid those places and circumstances where we are most vulnerable.


For some of us, that’ll be social media. For others, it’s something else. But either way, the counsel is the same: “flee!”


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: March 27, 2015

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