I was reading an article yesterday about a man who struggled to receive God’s affection because of his father issues in his past. When he became Christian, he was immediately set free from alcohol, drugs and pornography. However, he was very harsh and legalistic in his lifestyle. He wasn’t warm and tender to his wife and children. He was more in love with the ministry than his own family. He said:
“Outwardly, I was a Christian of moral integrity and godly character. I never had a moral failure and I was an aggressive pursuer of God, praying and reading the Bible for two or three hours a day and doing all the right religious things. But inwardly I lacked the ability to express love at home. I was joyless. I had no inner peace. I was driven by spiritual ambition because I had built my identity and value systems on position, power, and performance. My faithfulness, duty, and service were not a response of true love to God; they flowed instead from a desire for personal gain and reward.
I could not see the bondage I was in, but my family could! I felt I gave my wife nothing to complain about. After all, I was faithful to her and always provided for her needs. Trisha knew I would be home every night and remain loyal to her. I was a man committed to purity in marriage. I had not touched pornography since my first encounter with Jesus. I even told her every day that I loved her. But there was a lack of warmth and tenderness, and she felt unloved and rejected
He said he never had a moral failure. And yet not being tenderhearted is a moral problem. But many of us don’t see it as one. For most of us, moral failures refer mainly to explicit scandalous sins i.e. sexual sins: fornication; adultery; homosexuality; stealing, greed, overt lying, physical abuse etc. However, sins like pride, anger, judgementalism, covetousness, jealousy, gossip, ingratitude, gluttony, discontentment, lack of compassion/love, impatience, irritability etc. aren’t that much of a big deal to us, as far as they don’t result in public embarrassment and humiliation. The late preacher, Jerry Bridges, calls them “respectable sins”. Sexual sin for example is a sin that the church loves to hate. If a pastor has a problem with anger we’ll give him a pass but if a pastor has a problem with sexual sin, some of us may even question the validity of his faith. Sexual sin (even if we struggle with it) is a popular disrespected sin, however, anger is more acceptable to us.
The problem here is that we put sins in categories and orders of hierarchy. And God cares about dealing with explicit sins as much as implicit sins. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” All means all. Not some. Violating God’s law in ANY way is sin! Not only explicit sins. ‘Respectable sins’ also. Neglecting to do a good thing that we know we are supposed to do is sin (James 4:17) i.e. not caring for our loved ones beyond basic provision/abstinence of committing evil against them. Its not about what sin is more scandalous to us, its about what hurts God’s heart and the heart of others. The Scottish preacher, Hugh Black, says, “We wound His heart of love, when we sin against love.” Consequences may vary, but sin is sin. I’ve heard of ministers in the past who preach fiery sermons about loving God yet they are cold to their wives and show them little affection at home (even though they would never commit adultery). That is not supposed to be so!
Jesus gave us a law that is superior to the Old Testament law which is the law of love. The law of love includes the 10 commandments and much more!! Loving God and loving your neighbour (as you love yourself) covers the whole law (Romans 13:8-10, Gal 5:14). Loving people means loving them how they should/want to be loved not how we think they should be loved. Love demands much more from the believer (Read I Cor 13). The Holy Spirit gives us the desire and power to obey the law of love (Philippians 2:13, Romans 5:5).
We should go beyond not sinning ‘explicit sins’ to being more holy/loving everyday. We are to go beyond not committing adultery to being extremely tender towards our romantic partners i.e. buying the flowers she likes every month or sitting down to just listen to her (with your full attention) without trying fix anything. We need to love our children more by taking them out to their favourite restaurant or playing their favorite sport with them instead of being satisfied with not abusing them or merely providing for them. We need to give of our time and resources to help our fellow believers instead of just tolerating them (Eph. 4:28, Heb. 13:6, Rom. 12:13, James 2:14-17). We are to love in the small implicit things not just avoid the wrong explicit things. That is God’s law of love. A superior moral law. Don’t settle for anything less.