“What? What do you mean that he cheated on her? Wasn’t he a youth leader in church?”
“Wait, this girl has been serving in church and is looked up to by many people. How can she do such a thing to her boyfriend?”
That night, I went home in shock. It was the third time in two weeks that I’d heard about Christian couples whom I had deemed strong and respectable breaking up. The reason behind the break-ups was sadly the same — cheating.
A SMALL COMPROMISE
Ever since I was a child, my parents established a rule that no food or drinks were allowed to be brought into the room; they certainly didn’t want any insects to be found on our beds! However, once, I really wanted to snack on some bread whilst watching videos in bed. I went to the kitchen and sneakily tip-toed back to my room with my loot. And it worked! No one knew.
Then I did it again and got bolder each time — I wasn’t just sneaking bread into my room, but even chocolates and chips! The stakes had increased and somehow I managed to succeed each time, until that fateful day when my mum found some crumbs that had gotten stuck to the threads of my bedsheet. I was heavily reprimanded. Stealth mode could not save me from being found out.
Looking back at my own life, I realised that, more often than not, we don’t wake up one morning and suddenly decide to go all out to break the rules. I started off with trying to get away with something small, and each time I didn’t get caught, I convinced myself that it wasn’t so bad, and that I could probably get away with it all.
Similarly, in the context of cheating, I believe that it is a result of a series of small compromises. I believe that few people wake up one day and think to themselves, “I want to cheat on my boyfriend/girlfriend today”. Instead, through a series of small compromises (e.g. a flirty text message here, a lingering look there) and getting off scot- free each time, they finally find themselves going further than they had initially intended, culminating in taking the plunge and cheating on their partner.
A PRIDEFUL HEART
In the weeks that followed hearing the news on the break-ups, I struggled with looking at the individuals who cheated in the same light. In fact, the thought that constantly plagued me was, “How could a Christian cheat? What’s wrong with them?”
IT SEEMS THAT I AM A "CHEATER" TOO... I HAVE BROKEN MY COVENANT WITH MY BELOVED
As I continued to judge their actions, what was slowly festering in my heart was deceitful pride, telling me that as a good Christian girl, I was infallible and would never do what they did. But the exact opposite is true — it is precisely because I am a Christian that I should know I am capable of the worst sins, and I need a Saviour.
Truth be told, the label “Christian” is never a guarantee for a fool-proof, sin-free life. The essence of Christianity is that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not the righteous (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31–32). When I dwelled on their actions and believed myself to be better than them because I did not personally cheat on my boyfriend, I was really being no different from the Pharisees who were self- righteous but without grace.
AM I A CHEATER TOO?
Interestingly, “cheating” is not unique to the 21st century. In fact, it is recorded frequently in the Bible. God’s people in the Old Testament always had a problem with unfaithfulness. In spite of all of the reminders of God’s goodness toward them, they chased after idols and turned their backs on God, time and again breaking their covenant with Him. Each time they were unfaithful, they seemed to forget that breaking their covenant with God had consequences. Just like us, they might have believed that all it would take to move on was to ask for forgiveness in the right way. But the reality is that we do have to deal with the fallout and that real repentance is called for by God, not our easy words.
How prone a human’s heart is to wander! Similar to the people of the Old Testament, I do have idols that I hold in my heart as well. Despite my best intentions to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind, my own series of small compromises have drawn my gaze away from Christ and toward idols such as the endless pursuit of grades, wanting to be fashionable, wanting to get a good-paying job for the prestige and the pay cheque … all these are things that I cling to so tightly and struggle to let go of! It seems that I am a “cheater” too, and more than once, I have broken my covenant with my Beloved.
LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART
But let’s not get carried away. Does it mean that every time something takes my attention away from God for a moment, I’ve immediately “cheated on God”? Does it mean that when we have an intense time at school or work or get into a relationship, we are somehow turning our backs on God? Does it mean that my every thought must be occupied with Him only, and any deviation is a sin?
I would think not. The Bible doesn’t command us to do nothing apart from “godly” things, but it does instruct us to centre all our desires, our thoughts and our efforts around God, making intentional and conscious decisions to make Him the Lover of our hearts, such that everything that we say, think and do flows from this love. When we think about what would please Him, before we worry about what would please our friends, lovers, teachers or even our family, we are loving Him wholeheartedly, choosing Him first in everything.
BUT THERE IS A LOVE THAT IS CONSTANT AND TRUE, AND IT PERSISTS BEYOND THE FRAILTIES OF OUR HEARTS
A LOVE THAT BINDS
One of my all-time favourite hymns has these beautiful lyrics: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love / Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it / Seal it for Thy courts above.”
All of us are prone to wander; all of us could be cheaters. The reality is that our hearts are fickle and our affections are fleeting. But there is a Love that is constant and true, and it persists beyond the frailties of our hearts.
When cheating feels like it’s getting more common amongst romantic partners, the lesson I’ve learnt is not to give in to small compromises and to intentionally bind my heart to God’s, making Him my singular focus in all aspects of my life.