What is it about ‘being away’ that strips the sense out of a person? It certainly has something to do with the fact that no one knows who you are. Which speaks to a disturbing level of externality in our moral compasses. So what makes the difference in whether someone acts out “The Hangover” or they don’t?
The fact that there is a whole city based on the fact that a significant number of people are going to do their own version of “The Hangover” suggests that we are somehow predisposed to such behaviour and that predisposition runs deep!
In Genesis 3, we read the account of Adam and Eve making a colossally bad choice. The Snake asks the question;
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The question seems innocuous enough and is easily answered.
“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
The serpent’s comeback seems remarkably benign;
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
This statement resonates with me. However, I live in a broken world, surrounded by evil where God’s goodness is easily doubt-able. Eve has none of these “advantages.” Eve lives in a world of perfection. She walks with God in the cool of the evening. Her experience of God has no dark shadows. There is no reason for her to do anything but scoff at such an obvious twisting of the truth. She even has Adam to back up her experience with his own. And yet she believes the snake’s implication that God does not have her best interests at heart. That he is hiding something from them. So Adam and Eve march right down to the tree and have some of its fruit.
Immediately everything changes. They realize they are naked, so they cover themselves. Then they hear God coming and they hide. These two actions are the sins that get them punted out of the garden with pain in child birth, endless toil for food and relentless enmity between snake and mankind. It’s not eating the fruit that’s pivotal, but rather cutting themselves off from God that is the disastrous choice.
Which brings me back to my original thought. We have a disturbing tendency to cut, run and hide when we have done bad stuff, so a town that promises not to tell is an appealing morality oasis. How different would my world be if I remembered that God always has my best interests at heart and that I’m always free to ask for forgiveness and to receive grace.