My 1 and a half year old niece has recently acquired a larger vocabulary – more than the basic moma and da-da. She is not shy about sharing her newfound knowledge either.
Me: Hey auntie’s Cupcake!
Me: *reach out my hands to pick her up*
Me: You look so cute in your red dress.
Me: How old are you cupcake? Can you show me one finger?
Cupcake: No. *shakes her head and smiles* NO!!
I think you get the idea here. Her new favorite word and response to everything is unequivocally: NO! This got me to thinking about how universal the word no is. I wonder if toddlers her age across cultures everywhere experience those same first feelings of power by asserting themselves with the word NO. It also makes me think of Matthew 5:37 where Jesus admonished “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.” To give a little context to the verse, Jesus was teaching His disciples about giving oaths when trying to affirm something as true. He taught them, and us by extension, to not swear by heaven, earth, God’s throne, or anything else, but let what you say on it’s own be what it is – “yes,” “yes” and “no,” “no” (Matthew 5:33-37). While Jesus was talking specifically about swearing and taking oaths, I think the principle that little Cupcake has taken to heart still applies: let your “no” be “no.”
Joseph understood that No means no. He asserted himself and stood for what was godly and right when confronted by Potiphar’s wife with the temptation to sleep with her (Genesis 36: 6-12). Joseph refused her the first time (v.8) and “day after day, he refused to go to bed with her” (v. 10). The last time, Mrs. Potiphar grabbed Joseph in her attempts, but his answer did not change; he refused her again by escaping and running outside (v. 12). Joseph’s ‘No I will not do such a great evil and sin against God’ absolutely meant “no!”He didn’t stray from the left or the right when tempted, even though it cost him his freedom. He was set on doing right and saying no to sin.
Tamar’s no also meant no. When her brother Amnon schemed for her to sleep with him and commit fornication, she cried: “Don’t my brother! […] Don’t humiliate me, for such a thing should never be done in Israel. Don’t do this horrible thing” (2 Samuel 13: 13)! Tamar did not give in to her brother’s demands, but she fought him in her “no” until she was overpowered. “Because he was stronger than she was, he raped her” (2 Samuel 13:14). Even afterwards, she remained steadfast in her objection of him. Amnon tried to send her away shamefully, but Tamar replied, “No, […] sending me away is much worse than the great wrong you’ve already done to me! But he refused o listen to her. Yet, Tamar’s “no” was clearly made known.
Christ provided us with the ultimate example of letting our “no” be “no.” When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, 3 times the Lord responded to the temptation with a resounding no from the Scriptures. Finally the Lord told him, “Go away, Satan!” The Lord did not shrink back at the devil’s enticement, and we shouldn’t either.
So what can we take away from this?
- It’s okay to say “No.”
- We should say no to sin and keep saying no when pressed – just like Joseph did to Potiphar’s wife.
- Sometimes our “No” is met with force and a fight when people choose not to respect our wishes.
- Standing up for what’s right and saying no to wrong may lead to negative consequences for us.
- Any time a person says “No” to a sexual act and the perpetrator proceeds any way, the act is rape.
- Don’t worry about being mean or too harsh when your life and your soul are at stake. Jesus told Satan to go away. When someone is trying to get us to do wrong, we can say the same thing.
- When faced with opposition to your “no” to sin, fight back with your words (and your fists, if you need to) until you overcome and are able to run and escape like Joseph did, or until you are overpowered. But don’t let up or be dissuaded.
- Couple your “No!” with Scripture to solidify it with God’s word, like Jesus did.
It’s universal. It has the same definition every where you go: stop, don’t proceed, discontinue, the opposite of yes, negative, not any, can’t, won’t, don’t. No means no.