Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2 Samuel 13:11-17 -- On False Love and Planned Sin

"And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.
And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.
And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.
Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.
And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.
Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her."
2 Samuel 13:11-17

This is part of the story of Amnon and Tamar, which is unfortunately not a parable, but something that really happened.  Amnon thought that he was in love with his half sister, and with the help of a "friend" (real friends help us become better people), he planned out this encounter.  Tamar, willing to be with him, asks him to do it the right way by speaking to the King (their father) to ask to marry her, but Amnon doesn't listen.  It's a harsh story, but I think it is also instructive.

We often have no idea what real love is.  Amnon mistook a very selfish, twisted lust for love.  If he had actually loved Tamar, he would have considered her feelings and wishes as well.  God is trying to teach us to love, and show us true love, but we have to have some patience in learning.  Jumping into physical relationships before we know the difference is going to be devastating, to both parties.

Sexual sin is ultra-serious.  Amnon was already guilty of very great sin after forcing his sister, but she told him that sending her away afterward was worse. Sex is a blessing from God that forms physical, emotional, and spiritual connections between married couples, helping them to become so unified that they are "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8, 1 Corinthians 6:16). That kind of connection between people requires some commitment, some responsibility, and some dedication.  Tamar wanted to stay with Amnon.  Physical abuse was horrible enough, but in forcing her away, Amnon added emotional and spiritual abuse by disrespecting that connection, and rejecting and abandoning her.

Planning out sin ahead of time makes it worse, causes more guilt, and makes it much, much harder to repent of.  Admittedly, this is a more subtle lesson.  Amnon doesn't even try to repent that we know of.  All we hear of him after this is his death because of what he did to Tamar.  (Which was also a planned out sin that caused a lot of problems.)  But in this world we often choose sin and carefully plan it out ahead of time, as Amnon did.  Perhaps not as intricately, and hopefully with less serious consequences, but we find ourselves thinking that we'll just sin now and repent later.  Society can even glorify it, as shown in the old Duran Duran lyrics "Some people call it a one night stand but we can call it paradise. / Don't say a prayer for me now. Save it til the morning after."

The thing is, whatever you call it or however you think about it in the moment, sin is sin, and it is ugly and painful, and trying to recover from it afterward rather than preventing it in the first place just means a hefty dose of suffering for everyone involved.  Repentance isn't just changing our actions, but changing our minds and our hearts... and the difficulty of that is multiplied a lot when we keep choosing sin over God as we plan and commit sin for an extended period of time.  We lose touch with the spirit, and we entrench ourselves in our own desires.  Those aren't changes that are easy to undo, and the undoing of them at that point feels like we are tearing out part of ourselves, which we really are, because we've made that evil part of us.

Today, let's learn some difficult lessons.  Let's remember that God teaches us what love really is, and we should never use emotion to justify sin.  Let's avoid sexual sin and trust God that his commandments on the subject are for some good reasons and will help us avoid pain.  And, lastly, let's not plan out or accept evil as part of who we are.  Let's be willing to repent and change... not just our actions, but our minds and hearts.

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