It Happens Slowly

By Lewis Willis

It would be a blessing if we were able to see the end of a thing at its beginning. This would be especially valuable regarding moral or ethical behavior. For instance, if a person could see at the time he takes his first social drink that he would end up being an alcoholic, he probably would gracefully decline the drink. If he could see himself as the alcoholic losing his job, abusing his wife and family, the break up of his home, the loss of his self-respect and his respect in the community, the loss of his health, perhaps committing a crime or killing someone in an auto accident – I say, if he could see this as the end of the seemingly innocent social drink, he would not imbibe. However, like so many other things, someone else is always the alcoholic.

The same thing could be said of numbers of other things. When a young person first experiments with drugs, he does not think for a moment he might become a drug crazed addict who commits crimes to support his addiction. The person who sees something laying around that can so easily be picked up without anyone knowing, does not consider himself becoming the common convicted and imprisoned thief. If the married man, telling suggestive little jokes to the girl in the office or on the job, could see ultimate adultery and divorce, he would refrain. As I said, if we could only see the end of a thing at its beginning, we would not make so many mistakes and get into the fixes in which we often find ourselves.

But this is not an article about moral issues as such. I intend it as an article on spiritual concerns. I have been teaching a class on Wednesday night, studying the book of Luke. We are now at that point where we have just studied the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. We see him in company with the Lord and the other apostles. Next we see him leading a mob through the darkness of Gethsemane, coming to Jesus, betraying him with a sign of deep affection – a kiss. I read this statement recently: “It is a sad little line that tells us of Judas slipping away from holy company to betray his Lord. No truer statement was every penned than the few words in John 13:30: Judas went out ‘…and it was night.’ It was night and the darkest night of Judas’ life. What was the poor man thinking of? The Lord himself called him a friend; surely Judas loved this wonderful man with whom he had companied for 31/2 years. Was it the money? Was there some sort of personal notoriety he longed for? I doubt that we can know the whole of it; only that he was motivated by the Devil. But his night did not come suddenly. There is always a certain twilight preceding such a dark hour” (Jerry Johnson, The Light [Vol. 20,

No. 2] pg. 15). Judas is the classic example of the point I seek to make. Would he have done what he did had he known the end that would befall him? Would the story have been the same if he could have envisioned his own disgrace and suicide? His fall did not happen in a moment – it happened slowly!

I preached a sermon recently in which I looked at some of the ideas and actions now found in Churches of Christ. It is hard to imagine that these things are the result of a decision several years ago to send $25 a month to some human institution doing what was considered to be such a good thing, or the decision to have an innocent little congregational dinner in the classroom section of the building. How could this possibly lead to some of the things we now see in liberal churches? It happens slowly!

Well, as Christians, most of us could hardly imagine that we might fall away completely from the Lord. We would never consider just getting up and walking out of the assembly, never to return again. However, the sad truth is that some do walk away, never to return. You see, it happens slowly. We may not really know all of the factors that entered into it. Perhaps they seem so small and imperceptible at the time. Perhaps it was the demands of our job, school activities, or, something that needed to be done around the house or on the car. It really does not matter what it was. The sad truth is, the troubles and cares of life were given priority over the things of God so many times that suddenly we realize that God has slipped from our lives. Did we intend it? No! It just happened – slowly. We missed a few Wednesday nights. Then it was all Wednesday nights. Then, a few Sunday nights – then all Sunday nights. Lo and behold, then it was a few Sunday mornings until it became all Sunday mornings. It happens slowly but we wake up one day to realize that we have fallen away from the Lord. Had we seen this end when we started this process months before, we would have stopped it immediately. Now there is not enough faith left to even care. Apostasy is the sad and tragic end to a handful of small, seemingly meaningless little carelessnesses.

One has to remember the words of Paul at all times: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Is it not the course of wisdom to pause occasionally and ask ourselves: “What is more important than God and our service to him?” If anything comes before God, the twilight of ultimate darkness has set in around us. It is time for alarm!

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 9, p. 260
May 3, 1990