Why Christians Seek to Avoid Loose Conduct
DOING the right thing is not a matter of following the line of least resistance. It is not simply doing “what comes naturally.” Far from it! Just the opposite is the case. Doing what is right requires conscious effort, alertness, determination or firmness of purpose and persistence or stick-to-itiveness, and, above all, devotion to principle. It means recognizing God’s right to tell us what we may and what we may not do and then truly trying hard to conform to God’s will. That involves exercising willpower, restraint and self-discipline. Such is both the right and the wise course, for God’s Word tells us: “Take hold on discipline; do not let go. Safeguard it, for it itself is your life.”—Prov. 4:13.
Doing that which is right required restraint or self-discipline even on the part of our first parents. Thus regarding the forbidden fruit God had commanded, even as Eve told the serpent: “You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.” It took the exercise of willpower to obey that command. But the forbidden fruit became a real temptation to Eve; for not only had the serpent told her that it would make her as wise as God himself, and that she would not die if she ate of it, but she saw for herself that the fruit was “good for food” and “desirable to look upon.” And here is where her test came: Would she exercise self-discipline, restraint, regarding that which seemed desirable, knowing that Jehovah God had forbidden it? Would she believe God, who said that eating the fruit would lead to death, or would she believe the Devil, who argued that God was depriving her of something good?—Gen. 3:1-6.
If the exercise of willpower and self-discipline were required on the part of our first parents to do what was right in the face of temptation when they were perfect, then how much more so must it require the exercise of willpower and self-discipline on the part of humans today, so far removed from our once-perfect parents! Especially is this so since they left us a legacy of moral weakness, a tendency to selfishness and badness.
As Jehovah God himself observed, right after the Noachian flood: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” Yes, as Jehovah further noted by his prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” And compounding the difficulty for Christians is the world all around them which is dominated by “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.”—Gen. 8:21; Jer. 17:9; 1 John 2:16.
The very opposite of restraint and self-discipline is loose conduct. What is meant by loose conduct? Why do Christians seek to avoid it? It is mentioned by the apostle Paul as among the “works of the flesh” that would debar a Christian from everlasting life in or under God’s kingdom.—Gal. 5:19-21.
WHAT IS MEANT BY “LOOSE CONDUCT”?
The term “loose conduct” occurs some forty times in the Word of God (New World Translation), about thirty times in the Hebrew Scriptures and some ten times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The Hebrew word translated “loose conduct” is zimmáh, which has primarily the meaning of “wicked thought or device.” In the Authorized Version it is rendered most frequently “lewdness,” but also, among other things, “mischief,” “wicked mind” and “wickedness.” Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures physical immorality, such as prostitution, adultery and fornication, as well as spiritual unfaithfulness, are referred to by this word.—Lev. 18:17; 20:14; Judg. 20:6; Isa. 32:7; Ezek. 23:21-49.
In the Christian Greek Scriptures the word for “loose conduct” in the original Greek is asélgeia, a word of uncertain origin. Concerning this word authorities on koiné Greek state: “Aselgeia denotes excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness . . . the prominent idea is shameless conduct.” (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words—W. E. Vine) “License mostly in the physical sphere: but figuratively also of the soul. . . . In the NT only the older and sensual sense of ‘voluptuousness’ or ‘debauchery’ is relevant. (Mark 7:22) Man necessarily falls victim to this when cut off from God. It characterizes Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament—Kittel) Most fitting, therefore, is the New World Translation’s rendering of asélgeia as “loose conduct.”
This word asélgeia, like its Hebrew counterpart, is repeatedly used to refer to gross sexual immorality. Thus the apostle Paul refers to pagans of his day who, “having come to be past all moral sense, . . . gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” The apostle Peter tells that, before becoming Christians, some had “proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine.” And then the disciple Jude wrote about ungodly men, who were “turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct.”—Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; Jude 4.
However, the term “loose conduct,” while it includes adultery, fornication and sodomy, is by no means limited to such practices. This is apparent when we note that Christian writers, such as Mark, tell us that Jesus said that out of the heart proceed adulteries, fornications and “loose conduct.” Likewise the apostle Paul speaks of “illicit intercourse and loose conduct,” and of “fornication and loose conduct.”—Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21.
It is loose conduct in the sense that it is conduct not fastened to right principles, not restrained, not controlled. In fact, one definition of “loose” is “free from moral restraint, or lax in principle or conduct; wanting in retentiveness or power of restraint: a loose tongue.”—American College Dictionary.
WHY IT IS WRONG
Why is all loose conduct wrong? For more than one reason. First of all, it is wrong because it is trifling with or desiring that which is forbidden by God’s law. It is therefore showing disrespect to Jehovah God the great Lawgiver and to his laws. It might therefore be said to represent acts of rebellion. Such acts may be titillating, pleasurably exciting, but actually they are a finding of pleasure in anticipation of or by dwelling on acts that are forbidden. In this respect the forbidden fruit in Eden’s garden may again be referred to. Not only were Adam and Eve forbidden to eat of the literal fruit of a specific tree, but, as Eve related, the command was also: “You must not touch it.” Why? Because touching it was the first step toward eating it. Also, touching it represented wanting something that was forbidden and so was bad in itself. When one wants what is forbidden he is, in effect, rebelling against God.
And here we have an analogy with loose conduct. It includes going as far as a person can to enjoy the forbidden fruit without actually eating of it, as in the taking of unwarranted liberties with a person to whom one is not married. But even if they do not go all the way, their actions are, in effect, rebellion against Jehovah God because they treat as desirable something that God has forbidden to persons not married to each other. So all loose conduct is wrong because it is the indulging to a greater or lesser extent of desires for that which is forbidden. It is thus seen that what is involved is honesty, integrity, moral rectitude or virtue. Certainly loose conduct is not obeying the first great commandment, to love Jehovah God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength, for to love God means to observe his commandments.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:19-21; Matt. 22:36-40; 1 John 5:3.
Loose conduct is also wrong because it violates the second great commandment, that of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Trifling with the emotions of a single person can do great harm, while trifling with the emotions of a person married to another is trespassing upon another’s property. In either case such conduct displays a lack of principled love. Married persons are counseled to drink water out of their own cisterns and Christians are warned not to defraud one another in this matter.—Prov. 5:15-20; 1 Thess. 4:3-8.
LOOSE CONDUCT IS STUPID
At Proverbs 10:23 we are told: “To the stupid one the carrying on of loose conduct is like sport.” Why is it stupid to view loose conduct as a sport, a game, as mere “fun”? Because one cannot indulge in it without harming oneself in one way or another, and to harm oneself is stupid. Loose conduct harms one in three ways: it worsens one’s relations with the Creator, causes friction with one’s neighbor and even directly causes injury to oneself.
Indulging in loose conduct displeases one’s Maker, Jehovah God. There is always the danger that it will lead to an infatuation that would cause one to throw discretion to the winds, to ignore the warning signals and to risk a life of shame for a moment of madness. Thus it has been reported that close to 1 percent of the Witnesses in the United States were disfellowshiped in the past year, the majority for sexual immorality. This was done to keep Jehovah’s organization clean and a safe place to welcome lovers of righteousness. Indeed, loose conduct led to expulsion from Jehovah’s organization for such ones who allowed a desire for what is forbidden to develop within them.
Loose conduct is also stupid in that it can cause friction between mates. Flirting, for example, has been termed ‘the game that can disrupt marriage.’ The very fact that it can arouse jealousy and so disrupt a marriage proves that it is not an innocent game. For married persons to flirt with others is as foolish as it is wrong and might be said to be diluting the fine wine of marriage with water. The more loyal a married couple are to each other the sweeter their own joys will be. Not only that, but the stronger will be the marriage bond and the more moral support each will be able to give to the other when most needed, as when a serious mistake is made, or as when adversity strikes in the form of sudden illness, accident, unemployment, and so forth. Such couples are putting money in a bank, as it were, for a rainy day, but flirting or philandering mates are squandering their capital and may find themselves without needed emotional support in times of stress.
And then, loose conduct is also stupid because of the harm it does to ourselves directly. For one thing indulging in loose conduct causes a loss of self-respect and tends to make one careless in regard to other matters and so causes a loss of spirituality. And loose conduct is not without deleterious effects upon the mind and body, although there is some dispute among those engaged in the healing arts as to the extent to which this is so. Among the ills that various ones have attributed to loose conduct are mental illness, tumors and prostatic disorders. Truly as the Bible says, one carrying on loose conduct is stupid. He disrupts his relationship with his Creator, weakens ties with his marriage mate and does harm to his own mind and body.
STRENGTHENING OURSELVES AGAINST LOOSE CONDUCT
How can we strengthen ourselves against loose conduct? First of all, by getting God’s mind on the subject. We must keep telling ourselves that, regardless of how pleasurable or exciting or thrilling loose conduct is to the senses, it is wrong, it is bad, it is wicked. And what does God’s Word tell us should be our attitude toward what is bad? “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.”—Ps. 97:10.
We must not only love what is right, pure and good, but we must actually hate what is bad if we would protect ourselves from it. How do we show that we hate what is bad? First of all, by dismissing it from our minds; by not dwelling upon it as something desirable. That means we must guard our minds and hearts, even as we are told: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” Yes, as Jesus so forcefully showed, loose conduct begins in the heart: “That which issues forth out of a man is what defiles a man; for . . . out of the heart of men, injurious reasonings issue forth: fornications, . . . adulteries, . . . loose conduct.”—Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:20-23.
A practical aid in our fight against loose conduct is substitution. Replace dwelling on sensuous things with thinking on ‘whatever things are true, of serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, well spoken of, virtuous and praiseworthy.’ (Phil. 4:8) Yes, “quit being fashioned after this system of things,” with its emphasis on sensual pleasure, “but be transformed by making your mind over.” (Rom. 12:2) That means to “strip off the old personality with its practices,” such as “fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite,” and “clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.”—Col. 3:5, 9, 10.
Replace bad associations that spoil useful habits with Christian associations that strengthen good habits. (1 Cor. 15:33) Replace dirty stories or jokes with clean, wholesome humor. (Eph. 5:3, 4) Replace watching sexy motion pictures and TV programs with watching those that are wholesome and educational. If such kind are not available, then why not do without? Better none at all than the kind that tears you down, tends to demoralize you. Christians for almost two thousand years have enjoyed life without such modern forms of entertainment. They are not indispensable to contentment, happiness or peace of mind. Far better to visit with some Christian friends in their homes than to associate with fornicators, adulterers, murderers and perverts by means of motion pictures or the TV set!
Using this principle of substitution, replacing the bad and destructive with the good and wholesome can change social gatherings from being threats to one’s virtue to being upbuilding occasions. Often there is much eating and drinking, which tend to encourage one to become less discreet. Substitute noisy “jazz” and rock ’n’ roll music with ‘good music,’ not necessarily sacred or classical, but there is an abundance of fine entertainment in the fields of folk, light classic and semi-popular music. The same applies to dancing. Substitute dancing that tends to arouse the passions with dances that are wholesome, joyous and innocent.
YOUTH ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE
Youth may not appreciate the fact but it is especially vulnerable to the temptation to indulge in loose conduct. Why so? For one thing, the attraction between the sexes and the virile powers are likely to be stronger in youth than in older persons. And then, too, youth is less experienced, is somewhat less mature in the cultivation of the ‘fruits of the spirit,’ such as goodness and self-control. Wisely God’s Word says: “How will a young man cleanse his path? By keeping on guard according to your word.”—Ps. 119:9; Gal. 5:22, 23.
Because of these facts it is unwise for young folks to “go steady” until they are old enough to marry and are in a position to support themselves. The modern tendency for very young folks to keep steady company with one of the opposite sex is largely responsible for the great increase in illegitimacy among teen-age girls, even unwed girls twelve years of age becoming mothers! Typical is the news heading, “Most Illegitimacy in 16-19 Group.”
Youths that want to go straight and have a happy married life must recognize that it simply is not safe for young persons of the opposite sex to be off alone by themselves. Even when they are old enough to marry and are keeping company with marriage in view they need to be on guard against taking unwarranted liberties with each other. A previous generation was far wiser. It did not allow girls to go unchaperoned. When a daughter of a well-to-do family once complained to her mother that her brothers were not required to be chaperoned, but that she was, her worldly-wise mother replied: “But, child, you don’t understand! Boys cannot get pregnant!” Not, however, that that is the sole reason for discretion, but it certainly should be a deterring one!
No question about it, indulging in loose conduct is bad, wicked and harmful. It goes against the four basic attributes with which Jehovah God has endowed us. It is unjust because it goes against God’s righteous laws governing the procreative powers; it is unwise because it disrupts relations with God and our mates; it is unloving because it is bound to harm others; and it is misuse of power in that it is a weak yielding to the gratification of selfish desire. “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Gal. 6:7, 8.