The new millennium has officially begun, and, just as we learned after last year’s Y2K hype, life is pretty much the same. Science and technology have progressed beyond our ancestors’ wildest dreams, but steadily so; we do not transport ourselves by hovercraft yet, nor do we dress in metallic clothes, as artists used to project.
Even sin is the same. One might have thought Satan would inaugurate this new age with a whole new set of vices. But then, why should he? The old sins are still so alluring.
Lewis Lord’s gripping story, “The Year One,” U.S. News & World Report (January 8, 2001), is a reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. Lord tells of the struggle of Rome’s emperor Augustus (who was emperor when Jesus was born) to establish “family values” within his empire. His most daunting social task was to curb the sexual lust and the bloodlust that ran wild, especially throughout the city of Rome. So sincere was he, that he found ways to reward those with stable family lives. Augustus himself was no model of virtue, yet he was wise enough to fear the effects of unchecked hedonism in an otherwise remarkable community.
The complication of these sins dates back much further than Augustus, of course. Consider the account of King David’s children, Tamar, Amnon, and Absalom, in II Samuel. Amnon found his half-sister, Tamar, irresistible, but she did not return his feelings. So he, bent on satisfying his desire, raped her. Amnon’s selfish deed ruined Tamar’s life. She was no longer eligible for marriage because she was impure. She could have been kept under Amnon’s care, and retained some dignity, but once his lust was quenched, she disgusted him, and he sent her away. Disgraced, she turned to her brother Absalom for comfort and sustenance. When David heard, he did nothing but mourn for Tamar. He did not punish Amnon at all – for though he was a mighty king, he was a rather incompetent father. Two years later, Absalom avenged Tamar by murdering Amnon. David continued to be an inadequate parent, and further tragedy ensued. Quite an account of sexual lust, bloodlust, and an absence of family values!
Fast forward thousands of years, and the same inclinations are found today. The prevalence of sexual lust is all too obvious; one need not comment on it. And though it is no longer legal to throw criminals into a rink with an angry, hungry wild beast, as it was in the day of Augustus, more sophisticated means of satisfying bloodlust abound. A perusal of the shelves of Blockbuster Video will attest to that fact. And family values? So berated are they that many people in the public eye openly sneer at the suggestion of such a thing.
People who support family values are deemed intolerant, unless “family” is defined as any grouping of people and “values” are defined as whatever that grouping deems reasonable. This new morality has resulted in wildly different expressions; hence, right and wrong are obscured, or perhaps even irrelevant.
Is there, indeed, nothing new under the sun? Can this new millennium promise us no hope? Would it take another flood before mankind could start fresh?
The forecast is good, for truly men and women change every day. We may not see an overhaul of humanity as a whole, and the world will continue to flounder in its abominable old sins. But every day new souls are won to Christ. Every day, individuals are dramatically altered as they enter into a relationship with him. And every day, even the most experienced of Christians has a new start…the chance for victory in the face of temptation, and the chance to be made cognizant, by the Holy Spirit, of unintentional sin, so that it may be avoided.
The psalmist wrote: “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord…He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Psalm 25: 7, 9) What a great way to start a new day. What a great way to start a new millennium.