How Far is Too Far…for Turtles?

All of us tend to wonder, “How close can I get to sin and still be innocent?”

How Far is Too Far?

Man in sneakers standing at the yellow line with Do Not cross message

Many teens and young adults, wanting to maintain purity in their dating years, ask the question: “How far is too far?”

This is not only a teen and young adult question, nor is it specific strictly to dating. Every person is faced with the decision where to draw the line between sinful and safe.

  • How much physical affection can we enjoy without sinning sexually?
  • If drunkenness is a sin, how much can I drink without being technically drunk?
  • How vocal can I be with my judgmental opinions without being guilty of gossip?
  • How flirty can I be without being unfaithful to my spouse?
  • How openly angry can I get without “losing my temper?”
  • How low a priority can I make spiritual practices while still maintaining the façade of an active relationship with Jesus?

For some, the question is conscious, for others, unconscious, but all of us tend to wonder,“How close can I get to sin and still be innocent?”

Turtles at the Surface

TurtleAndShark_02About this, we may draw some valuable insight from sea turtles.

Scientists studying the ecosystem of Shark Bay, off the west coast of Australia, were puzzled to observe that five times as many Loggerhead sea turtles are killed by tiger sharks than their cousins, the Green sea turtles. Seeing no obvious reasons, they studied further and discovered it has to do with their breathing habits.

Greens spend relatively little time at the surface, pushing their faces out of the water long enough for only a single breath before retreating once again toward the sea floor, while Loggerheads routinely spend two or three minutes at a time at the surface with their faces above water.

Tiger sharks rely on the element of surprise, stalking and attacking almost exclusively from below their prey, making the Loggerheads lingering at the surface more vulnerable to the stealthy predator.

For sea turtles, even an instant at the surface exposes them to mortal danger, but every second longer only multiplies the risk exponentially.

Thus, it would be foolish for a turtle to ask, “How long is too long at the surface?”

The more discerning turtle—and incidentally, the one that will likely live longest—asks instead, “How can I stay close to the bottom for as long as possible?”

A New Direction

It is no less foolish for us to inch dangerously close to the line of sin, hoping to stop just short of trespassing.

In fact, “How far is too far?” is not even a biblical question! Rather than speak of righteousness as a line or a position, scripture instead speaks of it as a direction

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

The wise disciple moves constantly away from areas where he or she is vulnerable and exposed to Satan’s attacks and constantly deeper into intimacy with God.

Righteousness is not a position, but a direction. Thus, the question we should be asking is not, “Is this action across the line?” but rather, “Does this action take me closer to the predator or closer to God?”

If we’re looking for the line we shouldn’t cross, perhaps we’re looking the wrong direction. Why not make it our goal to see just how far we can go in our intimacy with God instead?

Let’s Hear from You

I’d love to hear your wisdom on this.

Reply and tell me: If you had a child or a friend who sought your advice about how far was too far in a certain area, how would you respond?


3 Claims About God That Must Be True to Trust Him

Is God worthy of our absolute trust? That depends on these three things…

A New Word for Trust

The cannibals in the New Hebrides may not have had a word in their language for “believing” or “putting one’s trust in” someone, but that didn’t stop missionary Dr. John G. Paton from translating the gospel of John into their native tongue. Leaning back in his chair with his feet raised from the floor, he asked a companion from that tribe, “What am I doing?” The word the native used to describe “putting his full weight on” the chair became the term Paton used for trusting in Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever puts their full weight on Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

(Read this for more about this great man’s legacy.)

The Three Legs

But is God worthy of our full weight? Can we confidently lean into Him and lift our feet, trusting Him absolutely to sustain us?

That depends. There are three claims about God that must be true if He is to be the One upon which we fully rely.

(Note: These assume the reader already believes in the existence of God. The questions to determine His reliability, then, are not about His existence but about His character.)

1 | “God is consistently good.”

In Jeremiah 29:11, God claims that His motives are to give us hope and a prosperous future, not to harm us. But when hardship comes, we may wonder if there is a limit to God’s goodness or faithfulness.

What we believe about His goodness matters a great deal, just as it does in marriage.

WifeOnPhoneIf I told you my wife has been acting strangely–secret phone calls, unidentified credit card charges, lying about her whereabouts, responding vaguely or with irritation when questioned about it–you might suspect she is having an affair. But because years of deep, intimate relationship with her have proven her goodness and loyalty to me, I would interpret the suspicious evidence differently. Instead of an affair, I would conclude there is a surprise party in my future.

Those who do not know her see evidence of unfaithfulness. Because I know her well, I see evidence that she is doing something good for me.

Likewise, when the evidence about God seems incriminating, some will assume He is no longer good or faithful, while others will trust that He is working on something for our benefit.

2 | “God is infallibly wise.”

There is more to trustworthy character than just having good intentions. God must not only want what’s best for us, He must always know, without fail, what truly is best.

Paul boasts of God’s superior wisdom:

“Where is the wise person? … The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (I Corinthians 1:20, 25).

OneWayWrongWayIt is a bold claim, to say the least, because we think we are pretty smart, and sometimes we downright disagree with God. I confess to arguing with Him on multiple occasions:

… “I know You think this is good for me, but what I really need is _____!”
… “You don’t know him/her like I do!”
… “You don’t know how hard this is!”
… “I know You want such-and-such, but You have no idea what a disaster that would be!”

Inevitably, God’s will and methods will, in many cases, run counter to our own wisdom and instincts. After all, He is the God who:
… takes the long, winding way in the desert instead of the more direct path to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:17-14:4);
… trims down an army that’s already outnumbered 4 to 1 until only 300 remain, outnumbered 450 to 1 (Judges 6);
… says a patient man is mightier than a warrior (Proverbs 16:32);
… says it’s better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35);
… and teaches that greatness is achieved by climbing down the ladder of success to be servant of all (Mark 10:42-45).

No wonder many are reluctant lift their feet and lean fully into God’s plan!

David, on the other hand, had tested God’s strange ways and concluded,

“As for God, His way is perfect. The LORD’S word is flawless” (II Samuel 22:31).

He was convinced that even the most foolish plan of God will have better results than the wisest of man’s.

3 | “God is limitlessly powerful.”

Lastly, we must ask, “Even if God wants what’s best for me and knows what that is, is He able to make that happen?”

WeakVsStrongMy wife has observed that my prayers tend to “play it safe,” giving God an “out” in case He chooses not to heal this person, provide a job for that person, etc. My intention is to have a “Not my will, but Thine” attitude rather than presuming to tell God what to do.

But my wife has struck a nerve. I, and many like me, may say that nothing is beyond God’s power but pray like the situation is.

The power of God working through people has cured diseases, humbled hardened sinners, removed obstacles as impassable as a sea, turned a single meal into a feast for thousands, routed armies, made dead people alive again, and much, much more.

And yet, many doubt that God’s power is enough for their situation, as though it is harder than any God has faced.

Ironically, if God is limitlessly powerful, His power may still be limited. In Matthew 9, Jesus asked two blind men if they believed He had the power to reverse what was, in their day, an irreversible condition. They claimed this faith, but Jesus responded, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” Fortunately, they were healed because their faith had no limits.

What about you? Could there be limits to God’s power in your life because it is being done to you according to your limited faith?

Missing Legs

It is difficult to balance on a two-legged stool. All three legs are needed to feel secure in resting our full weight on it.

The same is true for God. When I doubt His goodness, wisdom or power, I find myself reluctant to entrust myself to Him.

So when you doubt–and we all do from time to time–which leg is typically missing? Assurance that God’s motives toward you are good? Confidence that His strange ways are perfect? Absolute certainty that your situation is not beyond His power?

I pray that, as you come to know God more intimately, He will prove over time that He is always loving, flawlessly wise, and infinitely, sufficiently powerful.

An Open Discussion

I would LOVE for this to be a discussion! Please leave a comment to share which leg you struggle with most and/or what helps you know God intimately enough to overcome certain doubts.