Monday, May 21, 2007

Are You Near the Line?

If you can imagine a line beyond which a spouse would be committing adultery, I'm convinced that many couples live with their toes right up next to that line of marital infidelity. Yes, many. And yes, I'm talking about even Christian couples.

Comments and questions like these reveal a leaning toward the line rather than away from it:

"Well, it's only my husband and I. If we want to watch it, we're both adults and we can make that decision."

"Oh come on- we work together. It's only natural that we would have lunch together every now and then. It doesn't mean anything!"

"We've been friends since high school. Why would I give up such a close friend just because he's a guy and now I'm married?"

"It's not realistic to say, 'never be alone with a member of the opposite sex.' Seems legalistic to me- I know myself and I can handle it."

But the Bible puts different standards on children of God:

Not Even a Hint! (Eph. 5:3)
..."Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, because these are improper for God's holy people."

While the culture asks, "
How much can I get away with?", this standard asks, "Is there anything about what I'm doing that could cause offense or be misunderstood?" We are to be above and beyond reproach, so careful in our behavior as to preclude any possibility of criticism.

Being above reproach makes it clear that
"wherever the line is, I'm nowhere near it." If this is my standard, I'm not going to ask how close I can get to sin without actually crossing over into sin. If that's what I'm asking, then it's likely I've already crossed the line according to the standards Jesus presents (i.e., "he who has lust in his heart..."). This is not about legalism, and it's not about pouring a bucket of cold water on fun. This is about protecting the one relationship in a married person's life that is designed to represent the relationship between Christ & the Church. We shouldn't even entertain a hint of sexual immorality.

Here's a few ideas to consider about having a "not even a hint" kind of standard:
  • If you saw a married woman in your church in a car with another man, what would you think? Would there be a sliver of concern in your mind? You might try to think the best of them, but surely we'd all admit that there might be a hint of doubt about the purity of their situation!
  • If your movie choices were going to be broadcast publicly, for all the world to see, perhaps on the powerpoint slides at the beginning of services on Sunday, would you continue making the same choices? If not, then why? Is it because they might hint at sexual immorality?
  • This excellent article addresses what can happen when members of the opposite sex begin a "friendship" when one or both of them are married.
True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, Praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8)
Here is a lens or filter through which our thoughts ought to pass- is it true? is it noble? is it right? pure? lovely? is it worthy of admiration? could it be called excellent? is this thought worthy of praise? If it doesn't pass the test, then "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Every affair, every sexual addiction, every action that has that "hint" of sexual immorality has started out as a thought. The Bayly brothers put it this way:
Unfaithfulness in marriage is not just a physical act; it's a way of life. It begins innocently enough--sidelong glances, the light brush of a shoulder, an offer to help put up the storm windows--all little things. But little things quickly grow until we discover we're in a prison built by our own hands. Seemingly without warning, we find that our wife or husband is no longer at the center of our heart; someone has taken their place.
Without a doubt, if this kind of behavior was stopped in its tracks at the thought level, it would never proceed into actions. They continue their warning:

I'm afraid many of us don't understand the danger of unfaithfulness today. We think we can engage in a deep and meaningful friendship with a woman other than our wife without considering the threat such relationships pose to our marriage. We think we can build an emotional dependency on a man other than our husband without introducing the danger of ending up in bed with that man. We blithely assume our marriages are indestructible. That's why too often, after our emotions have produced their physical fruit, we wake up shocked to be caught in adultery.

We fail to remember the lesson of adolescence--that emotional intimacy often leads directly to physical intimacy. [Read their entire article, "Emotional Intimacy & Adultery," here.]

Here we see it again- in terms of emotional intimacy and dependency... these are thought-level issues that bleed over into actions. If we cut them off at the thought level, there would be no illicit action. But if we entertain a little thought here, and a questionable glance there, pretty soon, we're not just to the line-- we've stepped over it into impropriety and sin.

The point is not to come up with a list of rules and then enforce them on your spouse, although having a list you consider and pray about together and follow would be an excellent thing. The point is not to be rude to every person of the opposite sex so as to avoid infidelity, although being cautious and guarded around the opposite sex would be wise. The point is not even to avoid every movie that has a certain rating, although this too may be a prudent decision for some people.

The point is this: Let's not "toe" the line. Let's not even be close to it. Let's draw our own mental lines that keep us far away from the actual line of infidelity. Let's re-focus our minds to not focus on "how much can I get away with", but rather- "is there any
hint of sexual immorality in my life?" "Am I providing room for sin to spring up in my life by any action I'm taking or thoughts I'm entertaining?" Let's root out the sin of infidelity before it springs up in our lives.

If you have additional thoughts or stories to share on this issue, hit "comment"! (As with all sensitive subjects, feel free to leave your comment anonymously if you have something personal to share.)

Blessings on you and your marriage,


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