One of the most foundational experiences as human beings is to share relationships with one another. We all relate to one another through these relationships, fathers, mothers, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.
There are many people around the world who also enjoy a relationship with some type of deity. Some don’t have relationship at all with their god or consider them unreachable. Christians worship God and have relationship with him through the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive and rose from the grave.
But what does relationship have to do with temptation and sin? God established a relationship with humanity from the very beginning. Adam and Eve in the garden enjoyed time with God as they walked in the cool of the day.
God had relationship with humans throughout history and focused on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He created covenants as a framework for his relationship with them. And those carried through the old and new Testaments.
In the Old Testament, God usually focused on a few people here and there. Only a few had the presence of the Holy Spirit come upon them for works of service and to carry out the duties of their offices. Most people witnessed God in some form but didn’t necessarily have a lasting relationship with him.
It was different when God created the new covenant. He promised to pour out his Spirit on all people. For the first time in history everyone could have an intimate, ongoing relationship with God. Christians enjoy that precious relationship today.
But we don’t always think about it when we are tempted to sin. We have been programmed since the Reformation and the beginning of Protestantism (probably even further back) to think of our relationship with God more in terms of legalism and the law instead of relationship.
Most of us are tempted to sin and we immediately begin to weigh the consequences legally, rationalizing the possibility of following the process of asking forgiveness and being restored in our relationships. But this is the legal explanation of what is going on.
In the back of our minds we know that sin separates us from God. We feel that separation but we only think of the guilt of violating God’s laws. Seldom do we think of the fact that we have cut God to the heart with our actions. We have turned on our deep and intimate relationship with him.
Because we read the New Testament and think of things like grace versus law this is our thought process. We rationalize the fact that God’s grace is so encompassing but it’s okay to commit a sin here and there.
As long as we go through the process of reconciliation everything will turn out fine. But we miss the finer points of relationship when we think about it in only a legalistic way. This makes it easier to rationalize our sin, even premeditated sin.
God has always been a relational God. He is not far off. His Spirit lives inside of us and is integral to our life every day. God built his relationship with Israel on the idea of marriage. Even a cursory reading of the major and minor prophets shows how he relates to Israel through marriage.
Hosea married a prostitute to show what it was like for God when the Israelites turned to idols that couldn’t even speak or hear them. And if you think we got away from that through the new covenant consider that the ending of Revelation has a marriage supper with the Lamb, Jesus.
And we are called the bride of Christ several times throughout the New Testament. In fact, marriage itself is an image of the marriage between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:25-27, 31-32). Sorry guys, but we’re all the bride of Christ in the New Testament.
Joseph was particularly attune to his relationship with God. When Potiphar’s wife tempted him to sleep with her and was quite forceful about it, Joseph told her that he couldn’t do it. His main problem with committing such a sin was that it would be against her husband (Genesis 39:8) and it would be wickedness to sin against God (Genesis 39:10).
He thought completely in terms of relationship for her and himself if they would commit adultery. He didn’t check off all of the marks of rationalizing how he could get away with it. Joseph was concerned that several relationships would be destroyed in the blink of her passions.
He did not mention how it might destroy his career as Potiphar’s right-hand man. He was more concerned that she was Potiphar’s wife, the only person in the whole house that he had no control over. She wasn’t his to control or manage.
Joseph isn’t the only person throughout the Bible who thought of relationship first when it came to temptation and sin. Job makes a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1) to avoid the temptation that the young maidens around him would’ve presented a rich man like himself.
It would have ruined his relationship with his wife, his children, and especially his God. He took the initiative to stop the possibility of this ever happening. The kind of temptation that he could have easily had the means to pursue he put under lock and key.
And our relationship with God must come before any desire to sin. Sin always separates us in our relationships. It separates us from the people around us that we committed against. But it also separates us from God.
Even if you think your sin won’t hurt anyone else, it hurts God. He put his Spirit inside of us for a reason. And the guilt that we feel may actually be separation. We think of it as guilt for trespassing God’s laws but it is separation that we truly feel.
I am convinced that if we began to think about sin in a more relational than legal sense we would sin a little less. So many of us think of the consequences of sin, the judgments that will flow from God because of our legal breaking of his laws.
But think of how much you would hurt your spouse or children, how much they would hate you, be disgusted with you, be angry with you. Well God gets just as angry and jealous when we allow something else above him, to take his place on the thrones of our hearts.
Instead of thinking and legal terminology, think with your heart and with your emotions. You know how you would feel (not what you would do) if someone broke your heart. Replace those feelings with God’s feelings. We have feelings because God gave them to us. And he has them too.
It’s not that the legal things don’t happen as well. Sin does bring consequences. Sin is transgressing God’s laws and breaking his commandments. But it is also a matter of relationship and emotion. Temptation brings our relationship with God to a halt.
We have a choice to make that we don’t just make mentally but emotionally. To choose anything other than God brings the same emotions of heartbreak and relational separation it would with anyone we love. The next time temptation comes around, don’t just think of all of the consequences but think of the emotion and heartbreak of God if you chose what temptation offers.
Let’s protect our relationship with God like we protect our marriage. Because it is also a marriage. Don’t let temptation steal the affections of your heart. Leave a comment and tell me what you think about this way of looking at temptation.