Antone Lavey, the founder of the Church of Satan in California, once described Satanism as “indulgence instead of abstinence.” A fitting description of the slavery of indulging one’s desires with no disciplines. And a powerful example to us of a society lost in the delusion of self-indulgence. We really have come to a point in our modern world where our affluence has placed even the manipulation of our physical bodies within the realm of indulging our delusions.
But what has this selfish indulgence brought us? Chaos, confusion, and perpetual adolescence mean never having to deal with the consequences of our actions. In other words, society will not survive this descent into the madness of indulging our every whim.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 10:5-12:
Brethren, God was not pleased with most of the fathers; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now, these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Do not be idolators as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance.” We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now, these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
St. Paul tells these Corinthians that all of the Hebrew Bible was written to be an example and a lesson to us about what happens when people become idolators and ones who indulge their desires.
He reminds these believers of the events of Numbers 25 when the Nation of Israel fell into idolatry and sexual immorality. They had been seduced to adopt the idol worship of the false god Baal because of their immorality with the pagan women of the area. And the consequence was that 23,000 people died in the losing battle that was the direct result of their unfaithfulness to God in worshiping false gods. Unfaithfulness is always the consequence of undisciplined morals.
All of this is a warning to us today to pay attention to those places where we indulge our desires instead of cooperating with the Spirit to tame our passions so they are our servants rather than our masters.
The whole of the wisdom of the Faith is meant to wake us up to the destructive nature of undisciplined passions and the inescapable unfaithfulness that always results when we allow our desires to intoxicate us. And this is especially true of us, because, as St. Paul says, the “end of the ages” has come. What he means by that is that the coming of Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus is the end of the road for God’s eternal plan for His creation. And we are able to enter into this final wisdom by learning from those times when the people of God fell into indulging their passions instead of controlling them.
We Christians are to be men and women who choose to focus on a singular love for God that insists all other loves take a second spot to that one, true love. This means a sober and attentive life that avoids the adultery of giving in to our passions and selfishness of a self-centered view of the world. Escaping from that hellish slavery to me, myself, through the freedom of focusing on Christ and His life sets me on the path of eternal wisdom rather than the momentary pleasure of indulging my narcissism.
Today, is your life learning the lessons of those who came before you? Or are you bound and determined to have to learn the hard way? Your passions have been gifted to you by God and they are not evil. But they are in need of discipline and focus. When my passions are indulged I always end up being unfaithful. When my passions are ordered and disciplined, I am free to enjoy the life of being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I am a slave to my passions too many times in my life and each time this happens, I catch myself desiring other things and people more than I desire You. That idolatry leads me to slavery rather than freedom, infidelity rather than faithfulness. I leave a bad witness to those who follow me and the consequences of this unfaithfulness are always death. Please forgive me for this, Dear Lord, and restore me to the right relationship with You as my only Lord and truest love. Amen.