One of the things we men are especially good at is compartmentalizing. Like the bowels of a ship or the chambers in a submarine, we can often close off one aspect of life from another and not allow “crisis spill over.” We become good at separating our job “world” from our family “world” and often those “worlds” from other aspects of life. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing.
If we have a bad day at work, it is a nice skill to be able to set that day aside once we get into the car and not let our job stress “spill over” into our family time. However, one of the ways we fool ourselves with this skill (one of the ways this becomes a “bad thing”) is when we think we can compartmentalize sin. No matter how hard we might try, there is no way to close off sin and have it not affect the rest of our life. We can’t simply quarantine sin, believing that we can entertain it in one area of our life without it contaminating the rest. Why?
Listen to the following counsel from John Owen, one of the most profound writers on the doctrine of sin.
The indulgence of sin [leads to] further sins. The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of the means by which all other sins should be resisted.
Read that last line again.
I wrote this quote in the margin of my Bible, next to Galatians 5:16. I chose Galatians 5:16 because it is here that Paul reminds us of our power for resisting the flesh. If we “walk by the Spirit” we “will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” However, if we try to harbor sin in one area of our life (if we try to compartmentalize it) then we are not walking in the Spirit and we will find no strength in our daily battle against the flesh. That harbored sin opens the door for more sin and invites it to run loose in our life. That is why the author of Hebrews admonishes “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1).
Owen’s words remind me that if I half-heatedly pursue holiness, I will not find it.