the canary

Here’s my latest entry for Our Daily Journey. Feel free to give me any constructive feedback you may have before I turn it in at the end of the week. 

        A friend of mine left his wife and three children. Although he knows better—he was a seminary professor—he continues to lie to his family and is filing for divorce. Another friend abuses her family. She wastes their grocery money on her own wants, and then swears and screams when their bank account runs dry. Both of these friends are behaving irrationally, perhaps because both are guilty of unrepentant and repeated adultery.

        There is something about sexual sin that ruins the minds of previously healthy people. Paul explains in Romans 1:18-32 that idolatry leads to sexual immorality, which swiftly degenerates into a laundry list of “greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.” Such people are “backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning” (v. 29-30).

        Why is sexual sin a gateway to this smorgasbord of lethal debauchery? Maybe it’s because sexual sin crosses a line of no return. Consider that everyone knows sexual immorality is wrong. Everyone knows it’s wrong to break their marriage vows or lust after another person—turning him or her into an object for their own gratification. Even people who claim to have no qualms about extramarital sex still talk of their exploits as “being naughty.”

        Sexual sin abuses another person in a way that we really like. We know it’s wrong to dehumanize them, but our selfish urges are so strong that we just don’t care. And once we have committed such a blatantly selfish act, what won’t we do? Greed, gossip, and hatred come easy for those who have already given in to lust. 

        Sexual sin is the canary in the coal mine, the first sign that something has gone haywire in our walk with Christ. Don’t laugh at lust. Repent before you do something really dumb.


Add yours →

  1. This was very powerful. However what kind of sexual sin is the canary in the coalmine? Adultery? Lust? Fantasizing? Yes, adultery will lead to even more sins, but it doesn’t seem like a very good early warning system! If you that last paragraph a bit clearer I believe it will improve the article.

  2. Jonathan Shelley March 16, 2011 — 8:10 am

    Ditto on Nate’s feedback. “Sexual sin is…” is a weak start to a sentence and paragraph, and it is too open to interpretation. I think if the last paragraph reads “Don’t laugh at lust. Sexual sin is the canary…” it is more precise.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Sexual sin abuses another person in a way that we really like.” I honestly have no idea what that is supposed to mean. Maybe that says more about my (in)ability to understand written communication, but I do remember a certain seminary prof telling me time and again to write in such a way that I cannot be misunderstood (maybe some day I’ll start doing that).

  3. Thanks for the help! Jonathan: I meant that sexual sin is the one area where people enjoy using another for their own advantage. I’ll make that clearer.

    Nate, good catch on that last paragraph. Here is my revision: “Lust is the canary in the coal mine, the first sign that something has gone haywire in our walk with Christ. Don’t laugh at this sin. Repent before you do something really dumb.”

  4. That really brings it home in a way that’s hard to misunderstand.

  5. Hi Mike –

    Vicki pointed me to your blog and I’m enjoying reading it.

    I’m not sure how long this article should be, but what if you briefly discussed pornography? It seems this is often the doorway to greater sin and then ultimately, adultery. A guy I knew said it seemed so harmless when he began looking at magazines as a teenager, but it led to a numbness and desire for getting a “high” from it each day. I’ve read that it’s an addiction that’s more difficult than crack cocaine to break.

    And what about contributors to the problem – society and the media. Sex definitely sells.

    Finally, we’re told by the church to protect our marriages, and not to get divorced at all costs, yet rarely are couples given practical advice as to how to set healthy boundaries. What’s even more sad is that couples often reach the point of no return before they share their problems with family and friends. There’s so much pressure to look like we have it all together instead of admitting we’re struggling.

    This topic hits very close to home for me, unfortunately. I had no idea my former husband had developed a relationship with someone else until friends told me. I’ve often heard that these relationships “just happen,” but I do believe that with Christ’s power in our lives and by setting clear boundaries, adultery is absolutely preventable.

    I’m so glad you’re addressing this.


  6. These are some of the things we have been trying to convey to our kids for years, but I like the word picture… and you do it with less words. 🙂

  7. Referring to an adulterer as a “lemon” (in response to Dana’s comment) seems inappropriate to me. We are all “lemons” because we are all sinners. We are all capable of outrageous sin in and of ourselves. Why don’t we just say that it is only by God’s amazing grace that we don’t ALL commit adultery!

  8. Jennifer:

    Thanks for calling this to my attention. I thought I was responding to Dana privately, trying to express sympathy for the jerk of a husband she married. I did not know that it was posted on the blog, and have deleted it. I agree that we are all lemons, but there still is an important but relative difference between the adulterer and the innocent party.

  9. I think you’re right, Mike. I don’t think there is a single chapter and verse that you can point to that warns us that this is the “canary in the coal mine”, although Ephesians 5:3 comes rather close. But more than that, if you were to read through the NT, it is quite clear that sexual immorality was a very big deal and one of the most important and first things to get squared away. But I agree with you also in saying that the root problem behind sexual sin is not lack of self control as much as it is an issue of idolatry.

  10. While I agree that sexual sin will and can lead to a further slide down a path , the gospel still can turn a man or woman around , even after deep sin has occurred and they called themselves confessing Christians. I have witnessed this amazing grace at work . But we must be vigilant and aware , it is a slippery slope that will lead to destruction.

  11. God bless – great article – let’s all repent and allow God to do a deep inner cleansing by His Spirit – we really belong to Him and are the sheep of His pasture. Keep the faith and keep heeding His word and walking in the SPIRIT

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