I was channel surfing late one night after work a few months ago and on one of the channels was an advertisement for a movie that was about to hit the movie theaters at the time. The voice over narrative in the movie trailer went something like this:
“A young man, because of his tragic past, is forced to turn to a life of crime……………….”
Stop right there. Forced to turn to a life of crime? Forced? I didn’t bother watching the rest of the trailer. I changed the channel. I don’t even remember the name of the movie now. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen movies like that before. Usually, the central character who was “forced to turn to a life of crime” is portrayed as a hero who really is a good person deep down, but simply had no other choice. He had to turn to crime to take back control of his life…or whatever. I realize they’re just movies and Hollywood has no concept of reality, but that does seem to be the message the world tries to convey today; that no one is truly responsible for his or her own actions. We’re all just victims of our past circumstances.
In real life, few people actually turn to a life of crime because something bad happened to them once upon a time in their past the way it’s portrayed in Hollywood. But to be sure, it does happen. People who abuse drugs and alcohol often blame their problems on something that happened long ago in their past. There are plenty of people sitting in prison today who say they’re there because they never got a break in life and they had no choice but to turn to crime. But plenty of other people have endured loss, pain, hardship, and suffering at some time in their past and they all turned out okay.
I’m not saying that it’s not necessary for some people to get help in dealing with something that was particularly traumatizing. Things do happen that leave emotional scars and the pain must be addressed. I get that. But my point is this: No one is ever forced into a life of crime. And no one is forced against his or her will to sin against God.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10 verse 13:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
You will never be tempted beyond what you can stand, and God will always give you a way out. So no one can say that they were forced into a life of crime. They can’t say they were forced to commit sin of any kind. If any of you are old enough to remember the Flip Wilson show back in the 70s, one of Wilson’s characters was that of a woman named Geraldine. Remember the line made famous by Geraldine? “The devil made me do it!”
In reality, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves for the choices we make. The devil can’t make you do a thing. The Bible says we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. I understand you may have had to endure some extreme difficulties in your lives. You may have suffered abuse as a child. There may have been some hardships in your lives as teens and young adults. There may have been some terrible things that happened to you in your past.
Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying and let me preface what I’m about to say by reminding every one of you that your life matters to God. But no one gets to use the terrible things in their past as an excuse to turn to crime and to commit sin against God. It doesn’t matter what may have happened to you in the past. It doesn’t matter how you were raised. It doesn’t matter how many times life has thrown you a curve. I say it doesn’t matter because no one is forced down the road to sin and destruction, no matter how bad their past was.
That passage from 1 Corinthians is a promise from God, and God is always true to His promises. You have a way out. God has provided it for you through the blood of Jesus Christ. And again, it’s your choice. You can choose to follow Jesus or walk away. But remember, and I cannot emphasize this enough, no one is forced to turn to crime. No one is forced to sin. Those are choices. Make the right choice by choosing to give your life, which includes all the bad things that have happened in your past…..to Jesus.