You can’t say I don’t love you just because I cheat on you. I wonder how many men can take this from their wife. I know some African women can take this even though one can’t tell for how long they will, but I’m yet to find a man. That statement is demeaning to say the least. It presents the other party as one who is weak and made so by too much love for the cheat. And the cheat trivializes an enormous act by adding the adverb “just”.
Interestingly, this is part of the lyrics of a song by “John Legend”; in the song, he went ahead to itemize the many things which he has done for the girlfriend or wife. How he provides for her every need and spends so much on her; therefore, just having sex with another girl cannot mean that I don’t love you, he says. And it wasn’t a mistake or a first timer, because, in the song, he added “I said it the last time, this is the last time”. Such can depict that this man is struggling with this behaviour and will change with time. But trivializing a bad habit cannot help one change, because when one adds the adverb “just” to something, it means it’s not a big deal, I don’t have to try so much to change things.
The “Just because I cheat on you” mentality is inherent in many cultures and religions of the world. The general principle is that if your good works outweighs your bad works, then you’re good enough for paradise. Righteousness by works is the tie that binds all false religious systems together. Many tell God “You can’t say I don’t love you just because I cheat on you” meaning God can’t say I don’t love Him just because of this little sin I like to commit. For a true Christian, whom the love of Christ compels to do good, the thought of just because I cheat on you will not arise, rather one’s thought would be “how can I please Him more?”
The “just because I cheat on you” mentality has been made prevalent in Christianity by working hand in hand with the “Judge not” mentality. For so long I had thought that John 3:16 was the most popular bible verse among 21st century Christians; but recently, a casual observation showed that Matthew 7:1 is more popular. Chances are that you know what is there, only that you may not know that’s where it is, and that’s why you may disagree with my proposition until you open it. Matthew 7:1 reads in part: Judge not.
I read something posted by a friend on facebook recently, it read: Today, judging evil is a greater sin than doing evil. We live in an era that looks like what was described in Judges 17:6: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. We don’t want preachers to deliver a straight testimony as they’ve been admonished to do in 2 Timothy 4:2: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. We want sweet talkers and motivational speakers. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim 4:3,4).
In our generation, we like to do anything we like and still be called “born-again” Christian. Dance naked in a music video and say “I’m still a born again Christian no matter what anyone says” Today, we have “homosexual Christians”. And you dare not judge them. You know they’re even nicer than you straight Christians, so you shouldn’t judge.
Judge not is a tricky expression, because the statement itself is passing judgement on someone else according to the definition given to it by the proponents of the “judge not” mentality. When you tell me not to judge because I’m reminding someone of what the Bible says concerning his/her actions, you’re also trying to remind me of what the bible says concerning my action. So who is judging who? When a mother tells the son that you know God doesn’t want you to tell lies, I wonder how this mother would feel when the son responds with Matthew 7:1: Judge not; especially if this mother were a proponent of the “judge not” mentality.
A lawyer can only prove that George is a thief when he presents a video evidence that George was caught on camera breaking into the house, but the lawyer cannot condemn George to jail, he cannot judge George. Judgement is reserved for the Judge alone. So, when a Christian tells a fellow Christian that you know, we caught you on camera saying or doing what God says we shouldn’t do in such and such part of the Bible, I think you need to do something about that, he hasn’t judged his/her brother he is only acting as iron sharpening an iron. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Prov. 27:17). When iron sharpens iron there is a clash or there are clashes, so it is when one man sharpens another. There is a Yoruba saying which I’ll paraphrase thus: “When two brothers come out of the same room smiling, after a conversation, it is believed that they have not told each other the truth”.
In correcting one another, we must speak the truth in love (see Eph. 4:15); and sometimes, in speaking the truth in love, you have to scream just as you would if your loved one were under a burning roof or walking by the edge of a river unaware of his/her close brush with a crocodile which you have seen. So, in fulfilling the Christian obligation of teaching the truth in love, sometimes, there are clashes, but a Christian ought to return to his inner recess in humility to consider whether he/she is on the right path or not as pointed out by his brother instead of hiding behind a misinterpretation of Matthew 7:1 in order to brush correction aside. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12).
Let’s get it straight, what is judgement? Pointing out wrong to someone when they’re living short of Biblical standard so that they can change their ways is not judgement. Judgement is condemning people to hell fire or giving them a pass to heaven based on their good works. Both are judgement, but the latter is hardly criticized. If I stand up today and say, this guy is so good, I give him a pass to heaven I wouldn’t face so much criticism as when I say this guy is on the wrong path from what I read in the Bible. God alone has the prerogative to judge anyone as fit for heaven or for destruction in hell—not eternal torment. (see. Jude 7).
In any case, misinterpreting the idea from Matthew 7:1 as we do today has far reaching consequences. If I believe I should leave people for God to correct them, then we cannot faithfully carry on the gospel commission of telling people that they need Jesus, because you’ll be saying to them, you’re on the wrong path or in the wrong religion, you need Jesus. That is judgement in the 21st century Christian interpretation of Matthew 7:1.
The “Just because I cheat on you” thinking is the kind we find in the rich young man whose story is in Mark chapter 10 from verse 17 to 27. Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” [17-20]. He believed that he had done all that is required of Him but Jesus responds to him saying “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. [21,22]. This man was unwilling to do that one thing which Jesus prescribed. He reasons, after I’ve done all these, God can’t say I don’t love Him just because of this little one.
Every word of God is important to Jesus, so He will never fail to remind you of that one thing which you lack. Not because He wants to make the requirements for heaven hard, but because we must grow in grace. Paul writes: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (see 2 Peter 3:18) Sounds also like 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
God desires us to grow in grace. He desires us to grow spiritually, but the “Just because I cheat on you mentality” inhibits spiritual growth. It suggests a sense of arrival or attainment. It readily shows that the one who made the statement doesn’t see the need to make a change in the area pointed out to him or her. I don’t need to bother myself about it, it’s just a little thing. Someone tagged this kind of religion a “Fire-escape religion”; a religion not born out of love for God but out of hope for a reward or fear of punishment. But “It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him.”[i]
Christ’s message to the rich young man is the same to everyone who will follow him, “One thing is too much to lack”. And that one thing should never be addressed with the adverb “just”; that which trivializes the enormity of sin.
Ellen White comments on this:
“One thing you lack,” Jesus said. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”Christ read the ruler’s heart. Only one thing he lacked, but that was a vital principle. He needed the love of God in the soul. This lack, unless supplied, would prove fatal to him; his whole nature would become corrupted. By indulgence, selfishness would strengthen. That he might receive the love of God, his supreme love of self must be surrendered.[ii]
Self is our greatest enemy. Someone has said that sin is a 4-letter word. S.E.L.F. That’s the theme of Romans 7. “The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.”[iii]
What should one do when your desires conflict with God’s expectation of you? Self must surrender. That’s the only way to be happy in serving God and not make the experience a miserable one or one which trivializes God’s Word. Love for Christ has to be the motivator.
We are made righteous by faith and Paul tells us that this faith works through love (see Gal. 5:6). No wonder Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15). Faith means resting in God’s love; assured that He’ll take care of every consequence of doing His bidding. So a man of faith does not give up on doing God’s will, because he has confidence in God’s love.
What does it mean when the Bible says: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”? (see Rom:4:3; Gen. 15:6) It means Abraham was assured that God will take care of every consequence of doing His bidding, and so he rested in God’s love. When God told him to go to a land which he would receive as an inheritance, he went out not knowing where he was going; he just simply rested in God’s love. God loves us and never means us harm.
“God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction.”[iv]
We must not contend with God’s authority even if it rattles our comfort zone. We must learn to surrender all to Jesus because the only way to be happy in Jesus is to trust Him and to obey Him. Like Mary, we must always be at the feet of Jesus. She’s one character who was almost always at the feet of Jesus. When Martha complained in Luke 10:38-42, she was at the feet of Jesus; When Lazarus died, she fell at Christ’s feet (see John 11:32); it is suspected that the woman who wiped Christ feet with her tears in Luke 7 was Mary. She knew she couldn’t achieve Christ’s expectations of her except she abides at Christ’s feet. She understood that temptations lose their power when Christ is near. Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her and so should every follower of Christ.
We must never be overwhelmed by the thought of our imperfection such that it will lead us to give up on God or on the other hand lead us to trivialize God’s expectation of us. Instead, the thought of our imperfection must lead us to the feet of Jesus where alone we can grow from faith to faith. (from one level of faith to another level of faith through the constant study of God’s word and prayer). God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. (Eph 3:20).
Everything that God requires us to give up can be modified with the adverb “just” in comparison to what Christ gave up in order to save us. It’s just a little thing so give it up. (the Holy Spirit is convicting your heart of something right now). That little thing matters to God. He says “One thing you lack” and it matters to me. I can help you make up for that lack, only surrender your will.
James understands the importance of “one thing” when he wrote: For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10-11). One thing matters to God because He is willing to help make up for our lack by His Spirit. Christ says “without me you can do nothing”. Quit trying in your own strength alone, unite your strength with the strength of heaven by surrendering and the seemingly impossible will be done. Peter writes: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (2 Peter 1:3-5).
Just because he died for you, allow Him to help you make up for it.
[i] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 480
[ii] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 519
[iii] Ellen G. White, Steps To Christ, p. 43
[iv] Ellen G. White, Steps To Christ, p. 46