This is a legitimate question. Not very many people can actually tightrope walk and not have any harm come to them. The vast majority of the world’s population, if we tried, would irreparably harm or destroy our bodies, and these are the bodies that God gave us. If we are Christian, they are living stones in the great Temple of the Holy Spirit, and individually they are little temples of the Holy Spirit. And to tightrope walk would be to show contempt for that fact. So, is tightrope walking a sin?
I ask this rather “tongue-in-cheek” because this is the exact same argument that many Christians take when speaking of smoking or drinking as a sin, and I think this highlights a major issue we face in the Church in America today. We no longer know how to explain sin in such a way that truly makes sense to the culture around us. Our culture understands the word sin as something that is bad. What our culture does not understand is what is bad from a Christian point of view and why.
Culturally, what is bad is anything that causes us to deny our “god-given” wants and desires. Obviously that doesn’t square with a message that is anchored in Jesus’ words that “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). What we need is to figure out how to communicate to a culture that only wants to believe that if it feels good it must be good.
One potential way to do this is to re-frame how we talk about sin. Especially within the holiness tradition we focus on sin being a certain set of actions, or a certain set of attitudes. Don’t do them and you are fine. Do them and you are sinning. The problem is when our society no longer will agree with us on the content of the list. And when we can use the same logic for what is on our list with an action like tightrope walking, it only serves to show that we are setting ourselves up for failure in explaining what is sin.
What if we defined sin, rather than a list of specific actions, as exchanging the glory of the immortal God (Romans 1:23) for anything less. This is something our culture could understand. We are pleasure-junkies and no matter how much we try to get the feel-good high, it is never enough. And when we are still long enough to listen to the still, small voice inside of us, we realize how depressed and broken we are.
The Good News is that God is in the business of giving us a true and lasting joy and peace. Because God is infinite, there is no diminishing return on this glory. He heals the broken-hearted and lifts up the downcast. God renews and remakes us and frees us from the pursuit of a good time.