The American infatuation with sex continues to grow at breathtaking levels. One recent study asked people throughout the world about the number of sexual partners they have had in their lifetime. Americans who were surveyed responded that 2 partners is not enough–it is too sexually conservative, while 15 is the point at which one should be considered to be “too promiscuous,” and 7 is the magic number. Another study showed that 67% of Americans view sex outside of marriage to be morally acceptable. Compare that to a similar study by the same group in 2013 in which only 29% said it was morally acceptable.
As you may imagine, this lax attitude toward sex affects marriages and families in the United States as well. Who can forget the outcry in 2015 when hackers leaked 30 million names of people who had used the “married dating” website Ashley Madison? CBS News recently published an article stating 93% of Americans view infidelity as morally wrong, yet the same article notes that Ashley Madison membership is steadily growing at a rate of 20,000 new members per day. A September 2016 survey concluded that 41% of marriages have one or both spouses who admit to either physical or emotional infidelity. Additionally, 57% of men and 54% of women admit to committing infidelity in any relationship, past or present, and an astonishing 74% of men surveyed said they would have an affair if they knew they could do it without being caught.
These numbers represent only a small sampling of studies proving that many people view sex and marriage in a way that is completely ungodly. The Bible teaches that marriage is a divinely sanctioned institution (Gen. 2:18-25), and within that bond exists an intimacy that is unauthorized to exist in any other sphere (Heb. 13:4). In marriage, we commit to give ourselves completely to our spouse sexually and emotionally. We vow to be faithful to them and abstain from all others. Too often, that sacred vow is forgotten.
What can be done to turn the tide and restore faithfulness to marriage? What can we do to remember the vow that we make to abstain from all others? Consider the following four suggestions.
Pluck out your Eye.
Jesus spoke of lust in Matthew 5:28 when He said, “…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Many consider simply “looking at the flesh” to be okay as long as action is never initiated. A married man once said to me, “It’s okay if I look at the menu, as long as I don’t order anything.” Such an attitude is ungodly and untrue. Adultery begins in the heart (Matt. 15:18-20), and to allow one’s lusts to go unchecked is sinful and will result in action. That is why Matthew 5:28 is followed by verses 29-30 in which Jesus instructs us to pluck out our eye and cut off our hand. Certainly, Jesus did not mean that we are to literally mutilate our bodies, rather He intends for us to identify avenues of temptation and sin in our lives and eliminate them. Consider how many affairs begin with pornography addiction and casual relationships begun in social media forums. Many would do well to close their social media accounts and put filters and other accountability safeguards on their computers and smartphones in order to help prevent sin from happening.
Fulfill your duty.
First Corinthians 7:3-5 says, “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting a prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” God created us with a desire for sexual intimacy, and when fulfilled in the marriage bed, it is a godly thing (Heb. 13:4). Some affairs begin because a spouse is neglected physically and emotionally. Satan is aware of such and he utilizes it as a weapon to tempt men and women to have their desires fulfilled elsewhere. Husbands and wives should be mindful of their intimate duty to one another in order to prevent Satan from gaining inroads into their marriage.
Commit to commitment.
Our society scoffs at the idea of commitment. On average, people change jobs more often, choose to rent instead of buying a house, and elect for cohabitation instead of marriage, all because of a desire not to commit. Yet, when we enter into the marriage bond we make the greatest commitment of our lives, second only to the one we make as a servant of God. In marriage, we pledge our unwavering commitment to God and to the one we love. We commit to honoring God’s intention for marriage, which is one man and one woman for life
(Matt. 19:3-9). We commit to being sexually and emotionally faithful to our spouse (Heb. 13:4). We commit to fulfilling our divinely sanctioned roles as husband and wife (Eph. 5:22-33). We commit to meeting our spouse’s needs until death parts us. Infidelity is the result of one who forgets his commitment. Preventing it requires us to remember the promise we made and staying faithful to it.
Do not be selfish.
True love “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5). Literally, it does not insist on having its own needs and desires met. Rather, it is self-emptying and does whatever possible to serve and meet the needs of the one it loves. Infidelity, however, is completely the opposite. Breaking the commitment of the marriage bond is completely self-serving. It is the ungodly gratification of selfish lusts that are allowed to spiral out of control. Consider the ripple effect of pain and devastation caused by one act of infidelity. It is a sin against God, spouse, and family; it brings reproach upon the church of our Lord; it harms the influence one has for the cause of Christ; it destroys marital trust and often results in divorce thus creating a situation of emotional and spiritual heartbreak for everyone involved, and especially children who are innocently caught in the middle. The painful effects of unfaithfulness are seemingly endless. How could one engage in the selfish act of infidelity if truly focused on selflessly loving his or her spouse and family?