Theme Scripture: James 4:17 - If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
1:15 VIDEO - S2E16 - 0:43 - 2:00 - Family Matters opening sequence
Welcome back to TGIF—our second week of taking a look at the popular block of Friday night programming on ABC in the 1990s. Last week, we looked at Perfect Strangers and what we could learn about forgiveness from Balki and Larry. Great message and a great show. If you missed it, you can go to room211.org, click on messages and listen to it there.
And this week, if you didn't catch it, we are going to be looking at the show Family Matters, which was actually a spinoff of Perfect Strangers—Harriet Winslow, the mom in Family Matters was the elevator operator at the newspaper where Larry worked—not the strongest connection, but there you go. Anyway, Family Matters chronicled the adventures of the Winslow family (PICTURE OF WINSLOWS) as they got into all kinds of hijinks and wacky adventures. Carl Winslow, the father, Harriet, the mother, kids: Eddie, Laura and Judy and of course, their nerdy neighbor, Steve Urkel, and his undying love for Laura, which drove the plot in many of the episodes.
2:00 VIDEO - S2E16 - 2:10 "Here's the sugar, sugar" - 3:08 "…are stampeding" // 5:03 (guy gets up from table) - 6:03 "win her back"
Steve will do anything to win Laura's heart. There's no tactic he won't attempt, no boundary he won't cross, no strategy he won't employ in an attempt to prove his love to Laura, even when someone like Todd comes along that she is more interested in. Steve stops at nothing.
1:30 VIDEO- S2E16 - 8:09 (guys working out on couch)- 9:26 "squash him like an insect"
Steve finds himself in a hard place. He can help Todd pass geometry or he can help himself by making sure that Todd flunks, opening the door for him to get to Laura. He's caught between these two choices, not sure which one he should follow.
And maybe you've found yourself in this kind of situation before. You have to make a choice; what are you going to do? Do the right thing or do the wrong thing? Like Steve, maybe no one will ever know which one you've chosen, no one will know that it was you, no one will be hurt by your actions. But you're torn. You know what you should do, but you just can't. You want to do this, not that, but you know it's wrong. It seems simple when it's just Steve struggling with this on TV, but in real life it is much more complicated.
You go back and forth inside your own head, trying to figure out what you should do. It feels like there are two voices inside, each trying to get you to agree with them. And in our case, 90s TV magic makes that very thing possible.
2:00 VIDEO - S2E16 - 13:28 "this is a toughie" - 15:28 (Hallelujah chorus comes in)
Steve's voices in his head personify themselves as a little angel and a little devil, arguing back and forth on the tabletop. Now, it's funny to watch, but it can lead us to think some wrong things about ourselves and the way this conversation works in our own lives. First of all, angels and demons aren't concerned with sitting and arguing with each other. These are heavenly beings locked in conflict; they have been since Satan was thrown out of heaven. And they don’t look like that: halos and pitchforks, red spandex and white robes. The real thing is much more terrifying. When the Bible talks about angels showing up to people, the first thing they always say is "stop being afraid." The mere sight of angels sends human beings looking for a change of underwear. Angels and demons are real creatures and they are not to be made light of.
But the other problem with this idea of arguing with ourselves in this way is that it assumes that we are the neutral party in this discussion, that we are some version of Switzerland in the debates that happen in our minds and hearts when hard decisions have to be made. But this isn't the way that Scripture talks.
Romans 7:21-24a - So I've discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God's standards say is good. 22 I take pleasure in God's standards in my inner being. 23 However, I see a different standard [at work] throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin's standards which still exist throughout my body. 24 What a miserable person I am! (GWN)
We aren't neutral, we are under attack! We have forces at work on us; we are prisoners to our sinful hearts and they are only looking out for number 1: me. They aren't concerned with the good things we should do, they are only concerned with what is the best for us. And there is nothing we can do about it; we are captive to this sin inside of us, doomed to suffer the punishment of death because of our sinful hearts. What are we going to do? We find ourselves asking the same question as Paul:
Romans 7:24b-25 - Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (NIV)
In Jesus, we are given a gift: a new heart. Jesus takes our sinful hearts and makes them clean when He sacrifices himself on the cross. Because of Him, the spirit of God works in our sinful hearts to fight back against those desires that are evil, to give us strength to do the right thing when it is hard.
Because the struggle is real. It seems easy to do the right thing when everyone is watching, when you know others will see it or when you know that others will be impacted by your actions. But that is only half of the battle. Will you do the right thing when no one is looking? Can you do something that is right, even when it will hurt you?
Steve makes the hard choice to tutor Todd, knowing that it will mean his chances of dating Laura will go even lower than they are now. He does the right thing when no one is looking, when he could have easily said no, or even worse, sabotaged Todd's geometry grade.
And we face these kind of decisions each and every day. Last year, we moved and I went through the hassle of getting all of the addresses and mail and utilities changed and forwarded to where they needed to go. A number of months later, I discovered that the electric company wasn't billing us properly; in fact, they weren't billing us at all. My account was being billed to my neighbors address and my neighbors account had been shifted to our address, but the mailman wasn't delivering it to me because the neighbor's name was still on it, not my name. And so, my neighbors were paying what they thought was their bill but was actually my bill and no one was paying their bill, because of the address thing.
Now, what should I do about this? I mean, the electric company is a big company, shouldn't I let them figure it out? What's a few hundred bucks to them in the long run, right? They make millions each year, why should I help them take my money? When you're dealing with a big, faceless company, it's really easy to justify things: oh, that doesn't matter to them. They make lots of money anyway. No one will ever find out. It's not like I'm hurting a person.
But deep down, we know what we should do. Our theme verse for today talks about this very thing:
James 4:17 - If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
And so I called the electric company. And it took a while to get it figured out. I waited on hold for so long, the hold music started over again. And I ended up having to pay three months worth of an electric bill all at once. Ouch. That hurt. But it was the right thing to do and ultimately, it worked out well for me: I knew I had done the right thing and I got to meet my neighbors and start a relationship with them over this mixup. My actions had a positive outcome as my neighbors got to see my honesty play out in real life. And my problem actually worked out similar to Steve's:
2:00 VIDEO - S2E16 - 18:55 (jazz music playing, shot of outside of house) - 21:04 (credits roll)
Sometimes it's easy to do these things, especially if we have an idea of the outcome. My electric bill problem: not that hard to deal with. Urkel making a choice to tutor Todd: not that hard to deal with. And both of our situations ended up the way we wanted: my bill was paid and I met my neighbors; Urkel had a chance with Laura again.
But we had to trust that it would work out okay. It could have gone badly for me or Steve. Things could have taken a bad turn that would cost either one of us more dearly than we thought. Sometimes we have to trust God that things will work out, even when it will be hard to do, even when it will cost us dearly.
When it comes time to confront someone about the destructive choices they are making.
When you must suck up your pride and admit, "I was wrong."
When you stand and fight for a marriage that seems like it would be better for everyone if it ended.
When you refuse to sign off on something at work because you know it's not up to snuff.
When it comes time to confront yourself about your destructive choices.
There are many things that we do that are wrong. We are sinful creatures; we cannot help it. But when we fall, when we do the wrong thing, God forgives us, each and every time. That is the depth of his love for us.
But our theme Scripture today tells us that when we know the good that we ought to do and don't do it, that is a sin—one that needs to be called out. That is a dangerous sin of willful disobedience. Because that sin that you commit when no one is looking isn't really a secret; God knows. And it might take time, but someday someone else will find out too and you'll find the whole thing crashing down around you.
You see, in Jesus, God is calling us out of the shadows and secrets of our own sin. Not to make everyone feel guilty, but because he wants to make us new. He has given us new hearts through Jesus and wants us to live as His people. Are we perfect? No, not at all, not until Jesus comes back and makes everything new on the last day.
But until that day, God calls us to a life where we live as His people, whether or not someone is looking. Where our lives are defined by the things that we are for, rather than what we are against. To be consistent in doing the right thing so our very lives are a witness to what God has done for us. To live lives that focus not on perfection, but on the commitment to a direction: a direction that is focused on doing the right thing, no matter what the cost. It might not wrap up nicely in a half an hour each week like Family Matters, but in living our lives in this way, we can see how the decisions we make and the lives we lead truly matter to God. Let's stand.