In the classic epic poem, The Odyssey, Homer writes of Odysseus, a war hero making his way home to his wife, Penelope, after the Trojan War. While on his journey, Odysseus encounters many dangers he must overcome through both wisdom and prudence to safely lead his men home to Ithaca. I don’t remember much from my high school reading of this story, but I do remember the men encounter a cyclops at one point, and most of all, I remember the Sirens.
The Sirens were treacherous creatures, portrayed as femme fatales luring nearby sailors — with enchanting music and voices — to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. The Sirens represent the power of sexual temptation and the danger of giving in, much like the Proverbial warning comparing those who yield to such temptation with oxen en route to slaughter (7:22).
Many a sailor lost his life succumbing to the Siren’s enticement, but not Odysseus. Remember how he overcame? As the men sailed toward the Sirens, Odysseus instructed his men to tie him to the mast of the ship and fill their own ears with wax. He then sternly commanded that they continue rowing until they were clear of the Siren’s call, regardless of what he may say or do in the moment. I always thought this was an odd strategy. Surely, this strong, warrior king need not take such extreme measures to avoid giving into temptation. Why didn’t Odysseus just show a little self-control and stop acting so weak?
However, I believe this story illustrates the struggle many today face. These days, the Sirens come in all shapes and sizes and seem to be everywhere. They are now even welcomed into our homes. And just like in the story, far too many are seeing their lives smashed upon the rocks. When the Sirens call, far too many forget the ancient wisdom employed by Odysseus. They ignore the warnings and, consequently, indulge the Sirens.
Just like in The Odyssey, those who want to make it home unscathed must be willing to take necessary precautions to overcome the Sirens. It’s bizarre the extent people go today to keep temptation ever before them. I believe we are living in a day when being reactive to temptation to sin sexually is no longer enough. We must now proactively silence the Sirens in our lives and not give them power in the first place. For example, I can think of no reason anyone should have access to unfiltered internet. Internet filters are not a sign of weakness; they are a sign of wisdom. Fools trust their own self-control. The wise put wax in their ears (and over their eyes).
And I believe this is especially important for young singles preparing for marriage. It is easy for singles to slip into destructive patterns of lust without regular accountability and restraint. As a man, I’m convinced every man should be accountable to other men and should filter the internet where he lives. Woman may need to set similar boundaries. Every person is wise to think about when and where the Sirens call to them and plan accordingly. Again, we can no longer merely react, but we must plan ahead.
This may sound heavy-handed or even legalistic, but I believe our society is rapidly digressing in this area. Compared to 10 or 20 years ago, our times are exponentially more sexified. I recently taught a class on marriage, and we discussed sexual addiction. Every single one of my students knew friends and family members devastated by it. I recently read a gut-wrenching testimony in a comment on Tim Challies’ blog which was another clear example of how hurtful this problem can be in a marriage.
This is a real problem, but we can have victory through wisdom and the power of God working in us. In this day of the Sirens, where are the men and women who will stand against them, seek purity, and do whatever it takes to keep from crashing their lives, marriages and families on the rocks?
Copyright 2012 Andrew Hess. All rights reserved.