The story of Amnon in 2 Samuel 13 is a tragedy of epic proportions. Amnon, who is a son of King David, becomes infatuated with his half-sister Tamar. The text says that his lust for her was so strong that he was tormented to the point of illness because he wanted to be with her but did not know how that was possible. He was so tormented because of his lust for his sister that even his best friend started to notice, and helped him come up with a plan to obtain his sister. Sadly, this plan had nothing to do with actually expressing his feelings for her, or asking her father (who was also his father) if he could date her. No, his plan was ultimately about rape. Pretending to be sick, he claims that the only thing that will make him feel better is if his sister comes to the house and makes him dinner. Once she arrives, he sends all of the servants out of the house so that they will be alone. Then the text says, because he was stronger than her, he over powers her and rapes her. Even as she begged to at least get her hand in marriage first, he wouldn’t listen. He was overcome with lust and passion, thinking that the only thing that would make his life whole was a sexual relationship with Tamar. But like all idols, the idol of romance and sex always fails to fulfill. After using force to get what he wants, he discovers that false gods never fully fulfill our desires, and Amnon throws Tamar out of his house in disgust.
The story is tragic on so many levels, eventually leading to upheaval and revolt among David’s family, but what may be most tragic is that the whole episode could have easily been avoided. The tragic episode begins because Amnon is obsessed and consumed with lust for his sister. Amnon’s god is this perceived relationship with his sister. He is so consumed with this relationship that he begins to believe it’s the only thing that will make him happy. This idolized relationship is his heart’s desire, it’s the thing his heart clings to and relies upon for wholeness. His pursuit for personal sexual pleasure and fulfillment becomes his highest goal; and it leads to his destruction.
Even though the words of Paul to the Corinthians won’t happen for another 1000 years, Amnon would have benefited from someone reminding him of a very important truth. Don’t you realize that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (God resides in you). Your body is not your own, it has been bought for a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
Part of the problem with idolatry is that it is a subtle influence. Rarely does someone sit down and consciously decide to worship some created thing above the Creator. Instead, slowly, over time, idolatry creeps into our lives. When this does, we end up elevating God’s good gifts to a place of prominence where we start to believe that the only thing that will make us happy is more fully embracing this idol. Sadly, false gods always disappoint.
We live in a culture where sexuality/romance is everywhere. We are encouraged/tempted to try to look a certain way in order to be beautiful. The pressure to fit in and be accepted because of how we look is hard to fight against. We are also encouraged to pursue relationships as a highest goal. The pressure is so strong that at times we will pursue beauty or pursue romantic relationships as if these things will somehow complete us, and we won’t be enough without them. When this happens, we begin to believe the lie that true happiness, true worth, is found in beauty and romance. Like Amnon, we search for our false god with every ounce of our being, and if we can even grasp it, it leaves us even more empty afterward than before, because a false God will never bring wholeness.
It’s at these times that we need to remember Paul’s reminder that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit. This means we are sacred space. At our baptism the Holy Spirit promises to come live inside of us. Thus, we are no longer just image bearers, we are Temples of the Holy Spirit. As Temples of the Holy Spirit, we are taking God with us wherever we go. And as sacred space, there is no room for idolatry. Idolatry is a competing god, it’s like setting up a false god in the middle of the Temple. As temples of the Holy Spirit, to search after something else as most important is to search for a competing God.
When we feel pressured to pursue romance or beauty as the means to happiness, we must remember we are Temples of the Holy Spirit; we are sacred space. No amount of beauty can make you more beautiful than that truth that God already lives in you. No romantic relationship can bring you any more fulfillment than the truth that you are constantly in the presence of God because God lives in you.
You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are sacred space. Rest in that truth; meditate on it daily. No false god can promise you anything better than what you already have. Don’t pursue the false god of romance or beauty, it will leave you empty. Instead, pursue God.