Secret Lovers or Sworn Enemies?

Atlantic Starr’s breakout song, “Secret Lovers” (A&M Records)

Atlantic Starr had their breakthrough hit “Secret Lovers” back in 1985. Stevie Wonder’s song, “Part-Time Lover” reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 that same year. I still enjoy 80s music! It doesn’t matter what genre of music is your favorite or what era you choose, you’ll find several popular songs that feature infidelity. In the 21st century we see it so often in every form of entertainment that its overlooked or dismissed as a harmless indiscretion. Atlantic Starr’s lyrics do seem somewhat innocuous…

Secret lovers that’s what we are
Trying so hard to hide the way we feel
Cause we both belong to someone else
But we can’t let it go, cause what we feel is oh so real.

Atlantic Starr, A&M Records

During my time at Asbury Theological Seminary (ATS), one of the things I loved the most was the exceptional biblical teaching, sermons and lectures. One chapel when president, Dr. Timothy Tennant spoke, he said something that stuck with me and became a permanent part of my witnessing toolkit. He said, “When we become Christ-followers, sin becomes our sworn enemy not our secret lover.”

That stuck. That stung a little bit too. I have been a lifelong Christian, but for a big chunk of my life, I treated sin like sweets, a little white lie, fatty food, or yes, a “secret lover.” Just try your best to use some self control, but it’s no big deal if you slip up. Just ask for forgiveness. I mean we really can’t control our base instincts, our primal urges, right?

When I look closely at Paul’s theology of sin, he uses strong language and clear illustrations to help us understand the relationship to sin that a justified, redeemed child of God is supposed to have: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2, NLT) I guess that’s the daily battle in my own life and the big question I have for many of my friends and colleagues who chose to excuse their ungodly behavior by saying things like, “That’s just how God made me,” or “That’s how I was brought up,” or “I’m not hurting anyone. That’s personal!”

God’s grace (see what Paul says in Romans 6-10 and Ephesians 2) and the love of Jesus Christ, gives me (and all believers) the ability to not be defined by our sin. We don’t have to live in it. We shouldn’t want to live in it! μὴ γένοιτο! (Never may it be! Some would even translate that as, “Hell no!”) You and I should be defined by our faith and our fruit as we live lives that are “dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11, NLT). If our “part-time lover” (sin) is dictating even a fraction of our life, it is holding us back from giving all of ourselves to our Creator (Romans 12:1). We can’t move toward a Christlike life and go on toward perfection while keeping one toe in the pool of temptation. Sorry, Stevie.

Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:6-7, NLT

So what sin is your “secret lover?” Sexual immorality? Self-medication? Pride and arrogance? Rage and anger? Bitterness and resentfulness? It’s time to let it go of it and cling to God’s grace with all that we are. Somethings are a constant battle for me, a reminder that I need Jesus and have to “let go” on a regular basis. Christians, let’s stop excusing bad behavior, stop running after the sin that seems unavoidable and start relying on the strength and sufficiency of God’s grace. When we do that we’ll “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1) That is a love you won’t want to keep a secret!


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