God’s Word is quite clear: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:14). Yet we read so frequently of Christian leaders who have become involved in immorality. I will never forget the heartache our faculty experienced many years ago when a colleague confessed at a faculty meeting that he had gotten involved in an illicit affair. He lost his faculty position, his marriage and his family. Although he later repented and returned to a God-honoring way of life, his sexual sin brought great grief to his family, friends and the faculty of Western Seminary.
The fact is, these moral tragedies don’t have to happen. Nobody has to commit adultery. God, by his grace, always provides a way for us to avoid sin. The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that with every temptation God provides “a way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13). With this in mind, many years ago my wife, Nancy, and I agreed on some precautions that we would take to keep our marriage strong and avoid sexual compromise.
- We have committed ourselves to marital faithfulness. We have made this commitment in a time of strength to protect us in a time of vulnerability.
- We make our relationship a sacred priority. While there are lots of demands on our time and attention, our marriage is at the top of our list of shared priorities.
- We strive to dress and look our best. Recognizing that appearance is important, we work to keep ourselves healthy, fit, and attractive to each other.
- We make each other feel needed and appreciated. We contribute different things to our marriage and value each other’s contributions to this relationship.
- We are committed to strengthening our marriage. We recognize that the 2nd law of thermodynamics applies to marriage and we work to prevent deterioration in our relationship.
- We have Christian friends and family who pray for us and hold us accountable. We are so thankful for moms, dads and friends who have prayed for us over the years.
- We take care not to “sexualize” friendships with members of the opposite sex. We enjoy friendship with both men and women, but never allow those friendships to become fantasy or physical.
- We recognize the spiritual aspects of our physical union. While we enjoy the physical relationship of marriage, we recognize the priority of our spiritual relationship as a brother and sister in Christ.
- We are available to one another for intimate times. We don’t allow busy schedules, travel, and late night television to infringe on the special oneness that is exclusively ours in marriage.
- We keep the sparkle in our physical relationship. Thoughtful cards, gifts, comments and little surprises keeps the romance in our marriage.
- We know that times of separation offer opportunities for temptation, so we plan carefully for the times we are apart. We take special care during periods of separation to avoid potentially compromising situations.
- We take responsibility for our own sexual response and have determined to be “safe” persons with those who might be vulnerable. We are committed to protecting, rather than exploiting, any naïvely available person we may encounter.
- We recognize that the delights of illicit sex are mere fantasy and illusion. We refuse to believe Satan’s lie that the most exciting and satisfying sex is outside of marriage.
- We refuse to entertain sexual fantasies involving friends or acquaintances of the opposite sex. We know that purity in mind is essential to maintaining purity in heart and body.
- We recognize the deep pain and permanent damage caused by adultery. While God is always willing to forgive and restore a repentant person, we have chosen to be faithful to each other and avoid bringing unnecessary hurt and pain to ourselves and our family.
This June, Nancy and I will celebrate our 47th anniversary. And I am happy to say that taking these precautions has enabled us, by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s enablement, to remain faithful to each other these many years. We hope these guidelines will help other Christians maintain marital faithfulness for their own good and for God’s glory.