About two weeks ago, we were visiting in Scottsdale, Ariz. We spent a day at Paradise Valley Mall. It was there that I watched a young mother trying to corral three little children. I was amused as I thought about my own experiences with my two oldest children. Annie and John Scott were two and three and they were very active, darting here and there anytime I went out to the grocery store. It was all I could do to keep up with them.
With the two of them together, it was nearly impossible to go and keep them close so I could watch them. I would just turn my back on those two, and they would be gone. As a result, my shopping was no fun for any of us. Since they were so young, I could not expect them to get the enjoyment out of just looking and they had no patience to wait on me while I looked.
My solution came in the form of a child harness. I bought two. I remember the first time we went to the mall, both of them strapped in, me handling the “reins” as if I was moving cattle along … but it worked! They had the liberty to do more and I was at ease knowing that I was still in control. The harnesses gave my two preschoolers liberty to stray a few feet away and all the while I was keeping them in check.
The harnesses proved to be valuable restraints that kept the kids from potential trouble. When I knew where Annie and John Scott were at all times, I could be sure that they were safe. They were not old enough to use the restraints by their own will so those harnesses made our shopping much easier.
Now transfer this concept to an adult level. Two kinds of restraints keep a person from intended acts of transgression. One is a physical restraint, the kind like the harness. This type of restraint makes the potential act impossible. Even though Annie and John Scott wanted to run through the store, they could not. Even though their energy levels were just as great, they each had physical restraints that kept them from putting that energy to work.
We have physical restraints for adults that keep people from doing those things that they might want to do that would be harmful to themselves or others. The desire may still be there but they can’t act on it. Just like Annie and John Scott and the harnesses, the restraints had to be there to influence their behavior.
The other kinds of restraints are moral restraints. The exercise of these truly test and reveal a person’s character. We can develop moral restraints that can help us make decisions and help us make wise choices everyday. Those moral restraints tell us to stay within the speed limit, pay for items at the store and give back what we find that is not ours. Moral restraints just help us do the right thing.
Paul wrote: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5b) When a total dependence is placed on Christ, it is as if we are harnessed to Him. That is a wonderful concept. He is in us. Then we are so totally dependent that the indwelling person of Christ is reflected in our actions and behaviors.
The story about the harnesses for the children when they were little is a simple yet true story. But in its simplicity, that is the message I got from thinking about Annie and John Scott and the harnesses.