Monday, November 15, 2010

Tough Decisions

I realize the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, but have you ever stopped to think about what sin is at its most basic form? We can talk about murder, or adultery or lust, but what is it that they all have in common? At the very heart of sin is the belief that I have the right to do what I want and to make my own decisions. Look at the guy who walks into a convenience store and demands all the money. He wouldn’t do that if he didn’t believe he had the right to violate the store owner’s rights. A woman stands at the alter and agrees to commit herself to her husband til death do they part, but then she decides marriage isn’t what she thought it would be and she files for divorce. She wouldn’t do that if she believe that contract she signed had power over her.

Did you know that man is the only creature that has the freedom to make his own choices? The dog that sleeps at the foot of your bed, do you think he has choices? He does the same thing every day. He gets up in the morning, finds food, finds water, attends to his pack and goes to sleep. During certain times of the year, when the hormones are active, he attempts to procreate. You can train him to do some other things, but they are always an offshoot of the things he does by his nature.

Even the angel, beings so powerful a single angel can wipe out an entire army, are promitted only to act at the command of their creator. Satan, when he sinned, was cast from heaven along with those angels who sinned with him. What was the great sin that they committed? They chose to do their own thing instead of obeying God.

When you look at the sins of the world today, there isn’t a sin out there that isn’t based on a person deciding to disobey God or the people he has put in authority over them. Children disobey parents. Employees disobey bosses.

As writers, we often write about sin. We may not call it that, but we have flawed characters who make decisions that hurt other people. They often must choose between multiple choices, but it isn’t always clear which one is the best one.

As the crafters of these decisions, it is important for us to know when the decision is one of preference and when it is a choice between right and wrong. A character that must choose between saving the life of one of his children or another of his children is faced with an impossible decision, but it is still a preference decision rather than one of right and wrong. It is no more wrong to save the life of one child than the other.

The choice between right and wrong only comes into the picture when it is a matter of authority. Suppose a man can only save the life of his child by breaking the law. I’m not talking about violating the speed limit to get to the hospital. The authorities are somewhat lenient about that sort of thing, but suppose the child is kidnapped and the man can only save her life if by giving the kidnappers an expensive painting from the museum where he works. Now the man is presented with a choice. Does he obey the law or not? The incentive to break the law is great, but what will his choice be? Does he have a right to violate the law or not? That is something that he must decide.