I woke up thinking of some sweet friends and family who have been walking on the edge for a while now. Actually, some have stepped over the line and are now falling head first into a pit of their own making.
As I thought of these people, a verse came to mind. “The love of God constrains (controls) us.” Few words, but filled with depth.
How is it that we are rescued from the penalty of wrongdoing by trusting in the actions of another and yet we are still held accountable for what we do on this earth? Grace and personal accountability have been subjects of deep theological discussions since the time of Christ. Paul wrote letters to the early churches to help them understand this issue and yet still today I hear believers asking, “Can’t I live like I want to live and still be a Christian?”
This question takes my mind back to a darker time in my own life.
We had just returned to South Korea after spending 3 years traveling and raising support. We were gypsies. We had no home. We traveled and spoke in churches and homes all across America. We stayed with friends, family, in guest apartments, the homes of gracious strangers, and hotels. We saw God provide for our every need during those years. We started out on the road with 3 children and finished our travels with four. When I think about those years, I am filled with wonderful memories and joy. It was not a time that I dreaded. Yet, it was a time that I allowed the enemy a foothold in my life.
We were together all the time and I loved it. I began to take my family, and especially my husband, for granted. I was homeschooling on the road and my responsibility was to take care of the girls while David talked to Pastors and men of the church. Towards the end of the three years, David and I quit sharing our thoughts and our hearts with one another. We just assumed each other knew what the other was thinking because we were so close and always together.
When we arrived back in Korea, it felt great to have a home again. I continued to pour myself into the girls and I also began to focus on our ministry, but I failed to pour myself into my marriage. We had been married for ten years at this time.
A spirit of discontent fell over me. David and I weren’t communicating and I quietly blamed him. Our happy home didn’t feel so happy to me. I was restless and looking for “fulfillment.”
At a critical moment, I was shown two very different roads. One led to reconciliation with my husband and revealed personal sins and flaws that needed to be removed from my life. The other led to destruction. It may have been a long way off, but it was there. This second road appeared much less painful and didn’t require any change on my part. It seemed a lot easier. And for just a minute, I thought about it.
Terror ran through me that I had allowed these thoughts even for a moment. I loved my husband and I never wanted to do anything that would hurt him or destroy our marriage. Yet, here I was with thoughts of evil in my head.
The question, “Can’t I live like I want and still be married to you?” seems crazy to anyone who hears it. We all know that husbands and wives should be faithful to one another. They should put the needs of the other above their own needs. The love between man and wife keeps us from doing some things that we want to do.
Yet, this is the very question that the bride of Christ asks. “I’m not being completely unfaithful, I’ll still go to church.” Is that how a marriage works? Is that demonstrating love?
Because I love my Father, I choose to please Him. Not because of some legalistic system, but because I have experienced and seen His great love for me and I love Him in return.
To bring healing to my marriage, I had to humbly acknowledge my faults. I had to reject selfishness and pride that whispered lies to me. I needed to cleanse myself. I had to search out truth in God’s Word and stand firmly on it.
As the bride of Christ, I do the same thing. In a Psalm David declares, “But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” Regardless of my unfaithfulness, My Father is gracious, ready to forgive, and anxious to renew an intimate relationship.
Both “big” and “small” sins all start out the same way, one selfish step at a time. And all lead us away from our Bridegroom.
I want to be pure and faithful. I want the love of God to control my thoughts, actions, and speech. How do I keep pure? I keep my hope fixed on Him (1 Jn. 3:3) and treasure His Word (Ps. 119:9-11). And when I stray, I come humbly before Him, acknowledging my wrong, seeking forgiveness knowing He gives it generously.