The Gambler

Most of the students I encountered as a school counselor were those who volunteered to see me because of personal problems, or having been sent by the principal or a teacher for “straightenin’ out.”  Most of their problems (same with most of us) had to do with bad decision-making.  For those who were really interested in not repeating the same mistakes (not too many), I had an involved system of avoiding bad decisions that we could go over, but that took several sessions and not too many were interested.  For everyone else I simply spent a little time going over the lyrics in the first part of the chorus of the Kenny Rogers hit song “The Gambler,” written by Don Schlitz.

You gotta know when to hold em’,

Know when to fold em’,

Know when to walk away,

Know when to run.

All of them may not have been country music fans, but any time you talked about music young folks would sit up and listen.  I explained each line and how it related to making good decisions.  Of course most of them understood the last line, but that was because they probably had already made a bad choice that got them in trouble.

I’m not sure how well this lesson worked for them except I know for sure they would remember this for a long time, if not forever, and give it some thought on occasion.  It did have a secondary effect, though, since most of them would want to come back for more music talk.  Decision-making today is not much different than from days of yore, except the setting has changed dramatically.

Voices continue to decry the incivility that is growing geometrically in American society and probably worldwide.  Technical social media is playing a big part in this since never before have so many had a voice.  Making vicious and vile comments on blogs has become commonplace.  Probably ninety percent of those comments would not take place face to face.  When the free speech and free-everything-else movement began in the sixties it was only on a few college campuses involving, at that time, a few rabble rousers and Marxists.  Now it seems that almost everyone has joined in since it’s faceless, anonymous and consequence free.  Everyone’s staying in the game, not folding, since there’s nothing to lose.

So how is the Christian supposed to join the “conversation?”  Most Christians have tender hearts and dislike hurting anyone’s feelings.  Ephesians 5:11 states, however, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Well, how do we expose them?  How far do we go in our attempt to “expose” the lies that are bandied about everyday when increasingly the opposing voices are telling us to shut up?  Little by little Christian anything is being banished from visibility in public, and some attempts are being made to intrude into personal lives as well.  As in Nazi Germany when eventually everything said in the pulpit was controlled by the Fuehrer, hate crime legislation is making its way into the church.  Oh, you didn’t know that the Bible contains hate speech?  Hate speech is anything said by a Christian or Conservative that, well, hurt’s someone’s feelings.  That narrows it down to just about half of everything in the Bible.

A weekly columnist in our local newspaper always plans to poke his finger in the eye of C’s and C’s and that usually irritates me.  In a recent column he was at it again and fired me up to write a Letter to the Editor.  On second thought I decided not to get the university crowd after me, as did a very vocal pastor some years back.  My retirement should be peaceful.  Then it dawned on me that I was subtly falling prey to the very thing I vociferously decry.  I was not staying in the game; I was folding out of laziness and hypocrisy.  I mean, after all, the issue was simply about homosexuality and gay marriage, no big deal.  A generation ago it would have been a non-issue, but today, if opposed, it is hate speech.

After it was printed I was a little disappointed that there was not more reaction.  It did prompt another newspaper letter and a call from a kind elderly lady who thanked me for voicing what many believe but feel intimidated to speak.  One of the best Biblical examples of “holding,” happened in the book of Acts when Peter and John were hauled before the “church” leaders after the healing of a lame man.  When they were ordered to quit preaching and talking about Jesus they replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19,20).

When Peter and John reported back to the disciples what had transpired they all rejoiced and prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts. 4:29,31).  Their boldness extended beyond the Jewish leaders and included the Roman government as well.  After Jesus had been crucified, the disciples were cowardly men who not only “folded,” but also knew when to “run” to save their hides.  But after having seen the resurrected Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit, they now knew the truth and not only stayed in the game, but also gladly gave their lives for the truth of the Gospel.

If we look to the Bible for examples, and we must, it is clear that those after the heart of God stood up for the truth regardless of the consequences.  They could only do so, however, when the truth had been verified by God in their spirit, otherwise when the going got tough they “folded.”  Tim Wildmon points out in an aFa Journal article, that four areas are prevalent in the current culture war where the fight will be brought to Christians who stand for Biblical truth:  sexual behavior (entertainment), abortion, homosexual marriage, and public expression of faith.  All have been turned upside down within several decades.

And finally, I must clarify that the whole “Gambler” theme was only a device used to teach a lesson about non-gambling behavior.  Life is not a gamble.  But “staying in the game” (there I go again) is only possible in the current social climate and the perilous times to come for those who have had an encounter with the living Christ.  Anything less will not give the conviction that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  People around the world are at this moment giving their lives for the Gospel.  Would that we will do no less.


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