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Cheating Hearts

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How would you feel if I called you a liar? How about if I referred to you as the cheater? If I called you a compromiser, would you feel as strongly?

What if the person you loved had an affair? What if the person you loved had an emotional affair, meaning that they depended on and longed to be with someone other than yourself? How would you feel?

Maybe it did not even go so far. How would you feel if your boyfriend or husband was observing another woman’s body for long periods of time while you stood next to him?

Men, what would you feel like if your girlfriend or wife pined for another man while she was in your arms? I ask you these questions, because we are all cheaters, liars, and have proven unfaithful. You see, we do these things to God all of the time. All throughout the Bible God refers to His passion for us as a man who burns for his bride.

And every time we compromise, push the limits, forego Biblical boundaries, we cheat on God…we hurt Him. God is not a distant being who cares nothing for us, but an Almighty Being who desires your heart more than any mortal man. Yet we continually give our attention, our hearts, and our passions elsewhere.

We often get caught up in what we can and cannot do, that we rarely consider whether or not we should. If we were to look at the landscape of morality in America it is obvious that there is a serious decline in conscience. Might this have something to do with our stance on compromise?

So many in the church argue against legalism and how the Church’s rules have suffocated the relevance of the Christian message to a point that the world cannot relate to it. These same people also argue that the rules are cumbersome for the Christian themselves to a degree in which they seem out of date with what is going on in the mainstream culture.

These arguments are made as if this sort of cultural division has never happened before. It is as though they are unaware of the drastic cultural differences in the Bible times between the Christians and Romans. Nearly every major civilization has fallen from within due to moral decay.

Recently I heard the argument from one individual that they were tired of Christians following rules in which they do not understand. The argument was founded on the concept that Christians are too conservative and that “rules” were illogical and inconvenient.

This individual had issues with legalism. Her argument is valid, but her conclusion is faulty. Following rules without understanding why they are there, means nothing more than the fact that we are ignorant. It does not mean the rules are bad, it simply means we do not know their intent or feel they are not needed.

Another faulty conclusion to this argument is that rules are legalistic. This is untrue. Legalism only comes into play when we divorce our hearts from the rules. Legalism is following rules with our actions, but rebelling in our hearts. This does not mean, however, that the rules are bad in and of themselves, but merely that our hearts must also be in line with our actions.

Jesus stated this same thing. He said that if we lust in our hearts it is just as bad as if we actually carried out the act physically (Mathew 5:28, NASB). Therefore if we follow the “rules” and do not physically cheat, but in our hearts we do, then we are still in sin.

So my question to all of us (including myself) ... where are we compromising? If everyone saw the thoughts we had on a movie screen, what would it show? Christians often pretend that we are not affected as much as we are. We do this because I believe it buys us a little bit more freedom to do a little bit more than we know we should.

The movies and music are filled with so much anti-God messages these days, but yet we continue to buy the CDs and DVDs, and yet we still complain about the immoral state of our culture. This does not mean that every movie or song is bad, but when was the last time we walked out of a movie or turned off a song?

Better yet, when was the last time we did research a head of time to avoid having to leave? We cannot complain about the movies and music and how they are so immoral if we are lining up to consume them. It is like complaining about the government and never voting.

If all the Christians decided not to go to these movies nor buy the music, they would stop making them, because they are a business. They sell what will be bought. Right now, what is selling? Sex-filled music, blatantly pagan comedies (that Christians go in droves to see), and story lines that mock God and elevate anti-family themes. There are some good things to listen and watch, but are we consuming those or the other kind?


”Finally, brethren, [ ; 1 Pet 2:12] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (NASB).”

Maybe our particular compromise is not the media. Maybe it's talking too long to that person at work that you know you shouldn’t, because it may lead to something more even though both of you are in committed relationships. Maybe you are letting your boyfriend or girlfriend stay the night? Perhaps, you are a man who has roving eyes or a woman who cheats in her heart even though she knows she would never act on it.

You see, we are not the only ones we hurt when we abuse our free will to serve our selfish endeavors. We hurt those around us too. And yes, we are responsible for the effect we have on others. In our American mentality we often think of our rights and our individualism, however, this can often be contrary to Scripture.


"But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (NASB)."

We too often choose the path of least resistance because it’s easier and because we have become spiritually lazy. We try to do as much as we can without fully “sinning.” We tip-toe to the edge of the proverbial “sin cliff” and look at what lies below.

We mock those who stand further back because they are scared and “prudish” and we wave at those who fall over the cliff and say nothing to prevent them from falling. However, even if we did try to speak a word of caution they would not listen because from their vantage point (right before they fall) we look the same as them.

If we as Christians look no different than anyone else except that we sing songs and pray from time to time, than our lights are not shining in the world but only in our small circles of friends who likely have small lights too. 

We should be different and act different, but so many of us look no different at all. Too often we are wavering candles amidst a vast, endless cavern.

My dad told me a story about when he once was a pastor and a young person over heard him tell a dirty joke and because of that, the kid swore he’d never go back to church. He thought my dad was different, but his actions (in that moment) were no different than everything else he had heard from the world.

No we are not perfect, but how often do our actions betray what we say we believe? The Christian walk is not a checklist of do’s and don’ts, but a way of life that testifies to the fact that our lives have been transformed. Legalism is not the answer, but from what I see these days it appears to me that compromise, apathy, and justification are even more dangerous.

We should ask ourselves where we have faltered, and we should allow ourselves to try and imagine how much we hurt God and those around us with the “affairs” we are committing in our lives. Would we ever want to experience that type of pain? Would we want to ever cause anyone that much pain? We have. We do.

Copyright © 2007 Jayce O'Neal, Ph.D. Used by permission.

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About The Author


Dr. Jayce O’Neal is the pastor of RED Church in Virginia Beach. RED Church is a growing church community focused on Pursuing God, Loving Others, and Impacting the World. Dr. Jayce is also the author of One-Minute Devotions for Boys, No Girls Allowed: Devotions for Boys, Crazy Circus World and 100 Answers to 100 Questions Every Graduate Should Know. He is an Instructor at Regent University and is an avid sports fan who enjoys cheering for his favorite sports teams while eating pizza with a fork. Dr. Jayce has a Doctorate, two Masters Degrees, a Bachelor of Science, and a small trophy for