Tempted by the Forbidden Fruit
by Aneel Aranha
Note: These scenarios are not gender specific. Male and female roles can be switched, depending on the sex of the person reading this.
You are trying your best to walk in the imitation of Christ and appear to be succeeding admirably well when you suddenly bump into a gorgeous creature who really stirs up your senses. She seems to understand you so well, it feels as though God has tailor-made her for you. You suspect it wouldn't take much to fall in love with her, which would not necessarily be a bad thing, except for one minor detail: you have a wife at home. This is what you do:
- You tell yourself that God has sent you someone to be an understanding companion in your journey towards Him and ask your wife for a divorce.
- You fight off all unholy desire, determined to love her in a manner that will be pleasing to Christ.
- You try to stay away from her beyond what is absolutely necessary, but indulge yourself in elaborate fantasies from time to time.
- You find yourself unable to resist the attraction and indulge in a torrid affair, consoling yourself that God will understand your weakness.
As with all the other situations we are examining in this series, we all know which the right option is, but with rare exception, do not exercise it. It is the same with temptation, with many of us seeming unable (or unwilling) to resist it when it comes our way. In this particular situation, there is the added difficulty of "active" temptation; unlike a whisky bottle sitting on a shelf, a woman might not remain passively in one place and wait to be opened. But regardless, temptation can be overcome and it would help to keep the following pointers in mind.
Concept: Love Without Desire
Many people will tell you that it isn't possible to love someone of the opposite sex without desire, especially someone you are attracted to, but don't believe them. Love is something given to us by God and a man and woman can love each other, even to a great extent, without needing to add anything sexual into the mix. Needless to say, this isn't easy, but with a determined effort to do the right thing and the grace of God, it is certainly possible. Once you are able to love without desire, you will be able to love anybody and everybody as Jesus himself would.
- No temptation has seized you except what is common to man (1 Cor. 10:13). You are not being subject to any incredible test, no matter what you might think; others go through the same temptations and if they can succeed in overcoming them, so can you. Take encouragement from this knowledge.
- God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). If you find yourself tempted to a great extent, understand that God has the faith that you will be able to overcome it, which should give you the necessary strength and courage you need to combat it.
- When you are tempted, God will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13). In case you find yourself succumbing to temptation, look for the way out that God has provided. There always is one and you can usually best spot it on your knees!
- Remember that all sin begins with a thought. The serpent didn't toss the forbidden fruit to Eve and tell her to eat it, he made her think of eating it first. Control your thoughts, thinking of good things. "Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)
- Move your focus on Jesus. This is what works the best for me in just about every instance when I am faced with bad thoughts or evil desire. I just think of Jesus and engage him in a conversation or go out for a little stroll with him. It is very hard to be hateful or horny when Jesus is on your mind. Try it!
- There is the very real danger that you might turn tempter yourself in a situation like this, and it helps to remember then the words of Jesus: "But whoever shall cause one of these little ones who believe in me, to sin, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6) The little ones aren't tiny tots, they are the children of God.
Option (d) is the one most often exercised, with people justifying their sins by claiming "weakness" and then saying that God will condone their sins because he "understands their weaknesses". There is immense danger in this theory; we jeopardize salvation.
Option (d) usually leads to option (a), especially in "throw-away" cultures. It's cheaper to buy a new DVD player than get an old one fixed, and though it might not be as cheap with a wife, not with alimony payments, you get a new model. Jesus condemns divorce. "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9)
Option (c) is an option that is also frequently exercised, but Jesus is pretty straight on this too. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28)
Option (b) is the one to go for though it might not be easy. Many of us associate love — especially when there is attraction — with romantic/sexual activity and it is hard for us to realize that it need not be necessarily so. It is why most people who love somebody want to have sex with them, or at least some sort of physical contact, even if it is just holding hands.
There has to be a complete paradigm shift here before you can obey Jesus and love one another like he has loved us. Until that happens, it might be best to follow a drastic remedy, especially if you find yourself tortured by incessant temptation, and cut off all ties with the other person, at least for a time.
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