Throughout human history God has been “raising the bar”, as far as social morality is concerned. Behavior which He once tolerated for our ignorance and hardness of heart, He now tolerates no longer (Mark 10:4-9). God once "winked" at idolatry, but not any more (Acts 17:29-30). Though at one time He did not forbid slavery, now it is unthinkable. The same goes for polygamy (at least in our society); child prostitution; and for pillage, rape, and wanton destruction of civilians which were once a normal and expected part of war. Oppression, exploitation and corruption still prevail throughout most of the world, but the oppressors must be far less obvious and far more circumspect than they once were.
From these examples, it is tempting to infer the existence of a natural process “social evolution”. However, progress never came “naturally”. Every millimeter cost the agony, the blood and sometimes the lives of His devoted servants, who were moved not by present circumstances but by ideals and visions of a better life. Without vision, no progress would have been made (Proverbs 29:18). Mankind in general has always resisted to the limits of his strength – and continues to resist.
God’s raising the bar does not eliminate or even lessen sin. Rather, the same sins are removed to less blatantly overt manifestations. At the time of Moses, the Israelites left to themselves fabricated images and prostrated themselves in open idolatry. By the time of the Pharisees, idolatry was much more subtle – but remained idolatry nonetheless. Sin loves darkness. In the presence of more light, sin is forced to hide more deeply – but remains alive nonetheless, in the hearts of the unconverted.
Now, just as God through His people has worked hard to raise the bar, so the Devil and his servants have done their best to lower it (2 Ti. 3:13). So, for instance, sexual malfunctions such as marital infidelity and homosexuality are now rampant across the face of society. God's judgement has been the more severe: for "The servant who knows his responsibility, but fails to carry it out, shall be beaten with many blows; but the servant who does not know his responsibility, and fails to carry it out, shall be beaten with few blows." To a large extent, divorce is just an open manifestation of a reality that has always been among us. Before, many couples continued to live in functional divorce, without taking the final legal action. Now, conditions have changed, and divorce has become a practical alternative. Unfaithfulness and estrangement between husband and wife (which is ‘divorce’ in a spiritual if not legal sense) is no more common now than it ever was – merely the outward consequences are more visibly evident.
The struggle between God and Satan over men’s hearts is like a video game, played out on several different levels. For once the more obvious sins have been dealt with, God brings out into the open those sins which are more deeply hidden.
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