I grew up on ’60s and ’70s television. I consider myself as knowledgeable as anyone about the subject. I figure I can win at JEOPARDY so long as every category deals with classic TV shows. I still watch those old programs today. I especially love the intelligent sitcoms of the era, like M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. One TV movie, though, broke my heart.
We are continuing our conversation on sin and freedom from sin, on Christian Holiness Daily…
The Morning After (1974 – ABC TV from the novel by Jack B. Weiner, adapted for TV by the legendary Richard Matheson) was an amazing movie, and the first one that presented alcoholism as a real problem, and not simply a comic prop. It is still shown today in rehab centers worldwide. It starred Dick Van Dyke as an alcoholic who could not admit he had a problem. Van Dyke, for those of you too young to remember, was everyone’s favorite TV husband, dad, chimney sweep, and funnyman. When he made The Morning After, no one could accept him – this wholesome TV comic – as an alcoholic. When it became known that he took the role because he closely identified with the character, no one could believe it. I, myself, was devastated, for I had admired the actor tremendously (rather, I admired the characters for which he was known).
The movie portrayed Van Dyke as a businessman who repeatedly drank to excess, picked himself up, promised to never repeat his actions, promised to live on the straight and narrow, and once again falls into the same routine. Get drunk. Hurt those you love. Sober up. Apologize. Stay on the straight and narrow for a few days. Get drunk again. Over and over and over again. From the outside, he looked okay, but those who knew him, saw his problem, and realized that every time he failed, he fell a little harder and a little farther into a black hole from which – someday – he would eventually never return.
Alcoholism, like sexual addiction, gluttony, and a myriad of other sins is just a vicious circle. Alcoholics feel like they are a slave to the drink; they cannot – of their own power – resist the temptation. Jesus characterizes sin well when he says, “Those who practice sin are slaves to it.” Likewise, those who are slaves to sin can do nothing but practice it. According to Jesus, in John 8:34, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. As one who struggled for decades with the same old sins, the same old temptations, the same old struggles, and as one who has rarely won a battle against temptation, I know what it is to be a slave to sin. It is like being bound hand and foot and chained to a chair, to be at the mercy of a diabolical master. It is like one of those movies where a maniacal bad guy threatens to kill the good guy’s family unless he does “exactly as I say.” Living as a slave to sin is watching your perfect Van Dyke-esque life shattering all around you and you can do nothing to stop it.
Only Christ can free us from the sin that imprisons us.
Holiness is, perhaps, the most misunderstood concept in Christianity. Anyone who has striven to follow the life of Christ can likely tell you that it is impossible to do. No one can match His love, His grace, or His compassion. For no one but Jesus is perfect. Once the believer is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, though, he or she is filled to the brim with the love of Christ, and desires nothing more than to please God and follow in Christ’s steps. The love of sin is gone. In its place is a love and passion for others. That is Christian Holiness. This is Christian Holiness Daily.