Monday, February 14, 2011

Love or Lust? Considering Ammon & Tamar

Sex. There! I've got your attention.

I recently taught a children's Sunday School class on a passage that was all about sex. I taught it very tentatively, choosing my words and analogies with care. The Bible, however, isn't a bit shy about discussing sex. Sometimes you don't realize the passage is about sex until the end. Take for instance the passage on Ammon & Tamar.

In II Samuel 13, Ammon is physically sick over his half-sister Tamar. He tells his friend Jonadab, "I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister." At first glance, it would seem the story is about forbidden love, a biblical Romeo and Juliet. But the story is much darker than that. Jonadab comes up with a scheme to allow Ammon to be alone with his half-sister. Ammon's love turns out to be only lust as he rapes Tamar and then tosses her out like yesterday's newspaper. This event will not only destroy Tamar's life, but will ultimately cost Ammon his life and the life of Tamar's brother Absalom, as well as come close to costing their father, King David, his kingdom.

Such is the deceitful and destructive nature of lust. And such is the way we can distinguish between love and lust. A simple comparison of attributes is a quick guide for determining whether the "love" being professed is truly love or the impostor lust. Lust deceives. It manipulates. It destroys. It consumes. It is selfish.

Scripture lists love's attributes as longsuffering, kind, not envious, not proud, doesn't behave rudely, isn't self-seeking, is not easily angered, doesn't hold grudges, doesn't delight in evil but rejoices in truth. Ultimately, we're told love never fails.

Jesus told his disciples, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Love is self-sacrificing or as the Bible puts it, ". . . does not seek its own."

Good thing to remember on a day devoted to love.