Our Fight to Counteract Permissiveness
“We have a wrestling . . . against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places. On this account take up the complete suit of armor from God, that you may be able to resist in the wicked day and . . . to stand firm.”—EPHESIANS 6:12, 13.
1. What is the general feeling of many about today’s world?
THERE is something in the air of this wicked world. Can you detect it? Unquestionably, most of us agree that whatever it is that permeates this world’s thinking and conduct gives evidence of being unhealthy and deadly. We can see the results in a morally and spiritually sick society.
2. What is one obvious symptom of mankind’s sickness?
2 An obvious symptom of this sickness is permissiveness, which easily leads to lawlessness. It is not just the ordinary principles of acceptable human behavior that many want to get away from; rather, they seek to cast off virtually all restraints. They clamor for their right to do whatever they please, whenever they please, and to be free from controlling authority, whether this be parents, law-enforcement agencies or society’s moral restrictions. Who or what is behind this spirit of disobedience? Why must Christians put up a determined fight to counteract such permissiveness?
3. (a) How can we identify the one chiefly responsible for the permissiveness and lawlessness rampant in the earth? (b) How does a person show that he originates with the Devil?
3 The fact that disobedience had its start with humans in the garden of Eden is well known. But who first introduced permissiveness and laid the trap for Adam and Eve to become wayward? Jesus identified that one when he told the hypocritical Pharisees that they ‘wished to do the desires of their father, the Devil,’ whom Jesus later identified as “the ruler of the world.” (John 8:44; 14:30) The Devil, who “has been sinning from the beginning,” has sought control of humankind for selfish ends. Those making a practice of lawlessness originate with him.—1 John 3:8.
4. (a) How extensive is Satan’s influence? (b) What is the relationship between permissiveness and corruption?
4 The Scriptures make it plain that Satanic influence is widespread, like the air that surrounds our planet. The apostle Paul spoke of the Devil as “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2) Individuals who allow themselves to become blinded by the world’s thinking are more susceptible to his influence. The aim of the Devil and his demon host is, by every means at their disposal, to mislead mankind so as to do away with what is good and right. Hence, they generate a spirit of total permissiveness. Why? Because people who adopt that attitude more easily yield to and become hardened by the deceptive power of sin. (Hebrews 3:13) By permissively sowing to the flesh, the “sons of disobedience” reap corruption.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
Christians Have a Fight
5-7. (a) Satan uses what tactics against mankind? (b) What is the more difficult tactic to deal with? Illustrate.
5 Wicked spirit forces are especially intent on subverting and trapping Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are striving to keep God’s commands. Paul warns that we have a fight, “not against blood and flesh, but against . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) When having to contend with frontal attacks of ridicule, persecution and imprisonment, our spiritual fight is like open warfare. Whereas such direct attacks may cause us to stiffen our resistance, a sly, indirect approach may catch us off guard by appealing to the weaknesses of our flesh. So we need always to be on the alert because quite often our fight must counteract subtle or unexpected approaches designed both to undermine gradually our efforts to follow godly principles and to destroy our relationship with Jehovah.
6 To illustrate, perhaps you have had to take a stand on the issue of blood. Maybe unbelieving relatives or doctors pressured you to compromise. In the fight to maintain integrity you were willing to endure great stress. Why? Because the issue was clearly in focus. You were determined not to violate God’s command. (Acts 15:28, 29) Think, too, of Christian brothers who kept separate from the world by refusing to buy political party cards even though their refusal meant suffering. (John 17:16; 1 Peter 3:14; 4:12-14) Others have endured imprisonment because of their neutral position amid worldly controversies. (Isaiah 2:4) Refusal to stop preaching the good news has brought other forms of persecution upon some.—Acts 5:28, 29, 40.
7 Yes, time and again Jehovah’s people have taken a strong stand on these issues, giving evidence of their integrity and loyalty to Bible principles. But what happens sometimes when we are faced with tests that involve the gradual erosion of adherence to Christian standards? Some falter due to permissiveness.
8. In what areas should we not allow ourselves to be deceived?
8 We need to be on guard against permitting innocent-appearing situations to produce anxiety over things in this system, for that could choke the word that is in our heart or lead us into wrongdoing. (Matthew 13:22) This can result in our loss of divine favor and life just as much as letting persecution and other frontal attacks wear us down or defeat us. We should not be deceived into thinking that bad associations, wrong entertainment, overindulgence in alcoholic beverages and the like cannot ensnare us and destroy our spirituality. These things have taken their toll.
Sad Consequences of Permissiveness
9. How did permissive behavior produce problems for some Israelites?
9 Ancient Israel as a nation suffered greatly when the permissive attitudes of some led to serious difficulties. Recall how Balaam and Balak “put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.” (Revelation 2:14) How did this get started? By some accepting an invitation from the Baal worshipers to eat and drink, followed by merrymaking. Showing dissatisfaction with Jehovah’s provisions by choosing to associate with these outsiders led the Israelite men to becoming sexually aroused. Then what? They committed fornication with Moabite and Midianite women and bowed down to their gods. This brought Jehovah’s wrath upon those Israelites. In expression of his judgment, 24,000 died. (Numbers 25:1-9) What a tragic price to pay for permissiveness!
10. (a) How did Dinah’s permissive behavior lead to much sadness? (b) To what did Solomon’s permissive course gradually lead?
10 There are also examples of individuals whose permissiveness brought them into trouble. Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, went to visit the Canaanite girls in the land. What resulted from Dinah’s laxness as to her associations? She was violated by one of the sons of Hamor. Such disgraceful folly angered Jacob’s sons, provoking Simeon and Levi to kill every male in Shechem, while Jacob’s other sons joined in the attack and plundered the city, bringing grief to Jacob. (Genesis 34:1, 2, 7, 25-31) Even Solomon, one of the wisest men, permissively took to himself wives who worshiped foreign gods. These “gradually inclined his heart” so that in his later years he followed other gods, doing what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes.—1 Kings 11:1-6; Deuteronomy 17:17.
11. What should we bear in mind about permissiveness?
11 What point do you get from these Bible examples? It was not an immediate frontal attack by the Devil that brought about the downfall of some true worshipers. But with their permissive thinking the Devil was able gradually to turn some from the path of uprightness.
Tactics Used Today
12, 13. In what ways must a Christian be on guard against Satan’s tactics?
12 Satan, “the ruler of the authority of the air,” uses similar tactics today. Undermine first, then turn the unwary from the path of righteousness. Christians, therefore, need to be on guard against the ideas and inclinations of this wicked world. Otherwise, how can they remain blameless in the midst of “a crooked and twisted generation”?—Philippians 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:13.
13 Proverbs 13:20 tells us that “he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” How true! Seeds of permissiveness often are sown and nurtured as a result of circulating among and having association with unwholesome companions, whether inside or outside the Christian congregation. (2 Thessalonians 3:14; Exodus 23:2a) If our associates are inclined toward the worldly, pleasure-seeking point of view, problems are sure to ensue. This is especially so if we are enticed to “move around in the tents of wickedness.”—Psalm 84:10.
14. What is the popular view as to the enjoyment of pleasure?
14 The world, in general, likes what it has, including the enjoyment of boundless pleasure. (2 Timothy 3:4) The hedonistic view appeals to many people. This is the philosophy that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life and that moral duty is fulfilled in the gratification of pleasure-seeking instincts. (1 Corinthians 15:32) This way of thinking can undermine a Christian’s way of life.
15. (a) How might we be deceived by outward appearances? (b) What thought-provoking questions should young people ask about associations?
15 If you are going to school, how do you view other students who show no interest in serving Jehovah God? They may seem to be nice-looking individuals. Yet, many of them smoke and illegally drink alcoholic beverages. They see nothing wrong with taking mind-altering drugs. How will association with such persons affect you? How much pressure can you take from them before they prevail upon or coerce you into indulging in their vices? If you refuse, suppose they ridicule you and resort to name-calling? Is your faith so strong that you can continue to associate with such ones and not be affected? (1 Corinthians 10:12) Will you give in to temptation and indulge as an “experiment” just to see what it is like? (Proverbs 1:10) Do you think you can remain strong, firm, determined and loyal to Jehovah and his Word by continuing such association? If you are so inclined, beware! Give heed to the Bible’s advice to “flee from the desires incidental to youth,” yes, “flee from fornication.” (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 6:18) To counteract permissiveness, “fight the fine fight of the faith” by resisting any urge or inclination toward bad association.—1 Timothy 6:12; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
16. A Christian may face what pitfalls involving association with fellow employees?
16 At times some have regrettably become involved with fellow employees. At many places of employment it is customary to hold office parties or celebrate birthdays and holidays. Usually on such occasions alcoholic drinks are served. There may be music and dancing. If a Christian does not fight to counteract permissiveness in such areas, an erosion process can get a start. Socializing with worldly persons on the job has led some Christians into dating, committing fornication and other wrongdoing.
17. How can permissiveness as to television programs affect one’s outlook and desires?
17 Permissive attitudes can develop also toward immoral television programs. Television has become the baby-sitter for many young ones, but often what is watched is not properly monitored by parents, this resulting in many problems. There are adults who have allowed their attention to be captured by soap operas or TV serials. And commercial interests have made it convenient to have cable television or video cassettes. These may have valid uses, yet many people admittedly obtain them so they can see in their own homes much of the debased entertainment this immoral generation craves. Yes, corruption of the mind and heart can take place in the living room or the den if such material is available there. Though such “entertainment” has become the daily diet of a large segment of the public, it behooves Christians to remember Paul’s exhortation to think on ‘whatever things are righteous, chaste and praiseworthy.’—Philippians 4:8.
18. What good advice did Paul give at Ephesians 5:3, 4?
18 As dedicated Christians, what kind of example are we setting for our families and the congregation? Are we practicing what is good and clean in a spiritual and moral sense? (2 Corinthians 7:1) The high standard for us is: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.”—Ephesians 5:3, 4.
19. Why is mature oversight important at social gatherings?
19 At social gatherings it is important for there to be proper oversight. Otherwise, an air of permissiveness may seep in to spoil the occasion. If alcoholic drinks are served, is moderation observed? If music is played, is it the kind that mature Christians do not find objectionable? The Scriptural counsel is to “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) This strengthens our hand in the fight to counteract permissiveness.
20. What appearance can Satan make to deceive the unwary, but what protection has Jehovah provided?
20 This is no time to be lulled into complacency. (Romans 13:11-14) The erosion of adherence to Bible principles is gradual. Satan uses sly tactics to destroy our faith. He can even appear as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14) Our protection calls for “the complete suit of armor from God” so as to stand firm against the Devil’s crafty acts. Our fight is “against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” So we need all the spiritual armor and protection that Jehovah provides, including “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” so as to resist in this wicked day.—Ephesians 6:11-13, 17.
21. Those who resist the world’s permissiveness can look forward to enjoying what?
21 We know that Jehovah will soon clear the air of permissive evil in all its forms. No longer will its foul influence exist. Those surviving the end of this wicked system will see the dawn of a beautiful New Order of righteousness upon this earth under God’s Kingdom by Christ Jesus. Be determined to be among those who will enjoy that privilege. Fight to counteract this world’s permissiveness by getting better acquainted with and applying the principles of God’s Word.—Psalm 15:1, 2; 19:7-11.
Can You Recall?
□ In what two ways may Satan’s forces attack you?
□ What Bible examples show the danger of permissiveness?
□ How may students be tested as to permissive attitudes?
□ Why must we now especially be on guard as to our attitude?
[Picture on page 27]
A Christian warrior must guard against direct attacks as well as subtle or unexpected dangers