Two articles by Judy Dutton in this month’s Mental Floss create an interesting juxtaposition, especially in light of the focus at Bethany Community Church in the coming weeks on God’s unchanging definition of and standards for marriage.
The first article is entitled “In Praise of Sin.” The tagline introducing the article proclaims: “Scientists have found that the seven [deadly sins]… aren't so terrible after all. Consider this your official permission to give in to temptation.”
The article proceeds to cite various studies that could conceivably be seen (if you squint just so) as extolling the virtues of a particular vice. For example, how could envy be seen as beneficial? Dutton writes that according to psychologists Sarah Hill and David Buss, “feeling intense jealously [sic] actually spurs the envious to improve their performance.”
The article was written tongue-in-cheek, but I still saw a conceptual connection with another article by Dutton in the issue entitled, “The Perfect Kilogram.” Pictured above, the International Prototype Kilogram, or “Le Grand K” “was forged in 1879 from an alloy of platinum and iridium” and “hailed as the ‘perfect’ kilogram—the gold standard by which other kilograms would be judged.”
Great care is taken to preserve the integrity of Le Grand K. It is kept in a secure location at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Once every 40 years it is taken out and compared against other weights. Currently, there are 80 replicas that are tested against Le Grand K.
Here’s the problem. Le Grand K is losing weight. The last time it was taken from its vault, it was found to have lost 0.05 milligrams, or about the weight of a grain of sand. While this may seem small, Dutton does a great job discussing the implications of not knowing the true weight of a kilogram.
“Why should we care whether a kilogram in a vault is “perfect” or not? Because it’s bad news when your standard is no longer standardized. While no one’s worried about whether a single kilogram of apples is a hair lighter or heavier at the produce stand, a small discrepancy can become a gargantuan one if you’re dealing with, say, a whole tanker of wheat. The kilogram is also used as a building block in other measurements. The joule, for instance, is the amount of energy required to move a one-kilogram weight one meter. The candela, a measure of the brightness of light, is measured in joules per second.”
But again... so what? Dutton explains: “These links mean that if the kilogram is flawed, so are the joule and candela, which could eventually cause problems in an array of industries, particularly in technology. As microchips process more information at higher speeds, even tiny deviations will lead to catastrophes.”
In the first article, we see that the standard by which we declare something “good” or “evil” is not fixed in our culture. In fact, we could lament that the standard is not fixed within the church. The second article is a metaphor of a culture—or church—groping around for some unchanging standard by which to live. There has been a gradual yet consistent rejection of biblical truth and we find ourselves now “off” not by mere inches (or millimeters, I suppose) but miles (or kilometers).
In Amos 7:8, God’s Word is the plumb line--the standard--by which He measures the obedience and disobedience of His people: "And the Lord said to me, 'Amos, what do you see?'And I said, 'A plumb line.' Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them."
I know that Ritch, Art, and Scott will be holding the plumb line of God's Word for their churches and our culture this weekend. At Bethany Community, we will begin to take the plumb line of God’s Word and measure our understanding of marriage and sexuality against it. I’m excited and fearful as we call people in our churches this weekend to adherence to God’s unchanging and perfect standard.