I have spent a large percentage of my life living by an application of Biblical truth called “avoiding the guardrails.”
This application uses the analogy of a highway, let’s say a mountain highway. It states that, while curving along a banked highway, no one wants to hug the shoulder/guardrail, lest he spin out of control and crash down the mountainside. On a highway, it is preferable to stay near the centerline. Preferable and far less dangerous.
The application is thus plain that, in matters of choice, we should stay as far away from sin as we possibly can, not walking/driving along the edge over which we could easily vanish if we get caught up in sin’s pull.
Some circles even teach that the law exists to be the guardrail in our lives. Live with an eye to the law, staying far, far away from where one would crash headlong into its restrictions, and one will live safely.
Only, is that true? Do people who keep next to the centerline fare better than those who stay next to the guardrail?
My experience teaches me that the guardrail does not function in a Christian’s life in the same way as a highway guardrail functions when he is out driving.
In fact, Christians who stay next to the guardrail may very well crash through it eventually, but that is very seldom an accident, from what I have observed. It is usually a slow, intentional drift toward the mountainside, often due to eyeing the law long enough that they get fed up with it and want to leave it behind.
On the other hand, there are people who suddenly crash through the guardrail. But often, ever so often, they were the very people who seemed to be hugging the centerline until that very moment. They spin out of control in one fluid motion, having a head-on collision with the guardrail and vanishing down the mountainside in a flaming explosion.
I don’t know, but I surmise that they were only hugging the centerline out of a sense of duty and they, too, got fed up eventually. They may have used the most pious words of anyone around but who can know the heart of another?
There are far too many people of pious words and acts who are seemingly serving the Lord one minute, then caught in a very public sin like an extramarital affair the next minute.
Sin has a powerful pull and if the law and the sheer strength of our own personality are the only things keeping us from driving headlong into sin, we aren’t going to stay out of it for an entire lifetime. No one is.
The Holy Spirit is the powerful One who can keep us from sin but, ironically, focusing on the guardrails can distract us from focusing on Him. Too much attention to the law can divert us away from the very One who can protect us from the pull of sin.
What does the Word say? God has richly given us all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17). That looks to me as though God intends for us to enjoy most things in this world, while giving thanks to Him for them. Cultivating a grateful heart, as they say.
He has given us His restrictions pretty plainly in His Word, too, but they are not many and they are not grievous.
For example, Jesus taught us that sexual expression belongs within marriage; there is no place for lustful thoughts outside of marriage. He didn’t give us a continuum or guardrails. He simply told us to not do it. To Jesus, there was no difference in heart attitude between the person giving a married person a flirtatious wink or someone giving that same married person a stolen kiss. Don’t go down that road of lust at all.
But Jesus left us many, many areas that are not forbidden.
I submit that too much focus on rules and on denying oneself, even with making up new rules that go beyond what God has said, is a dangerous game of trying to drive along the centerline while staring sideways at the guardrails.
I don’t recommend it.