I’m a fan of the old Journey song “Faithfully” with front-man Steve Perry and with good reason. I’ve been married for a generation and appreciate what it means to stay in a relationship and work through the kinks.
Even so, being married doesn’t exempt anyone from being tempted to take a second, romantic look at someone other than the spouse. In that fleeting moment of temporary insanity that other person may seem more this, that or something than what’s waiting at home.
If it ends with a look, no harm done. “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin,” goes the hymn. Marriage, after all, is commitment, not blindness. But how committed to marriage are we 21st century dwellers, really?
I recently stumbled upon a NY Times “Modern Love” column headlined: “You May Call It Cheating, but We Don’t” in which the married columnist recounts kissing a family friend over drinks in her husband’s absence.
The friend broke off the kiss, anxious that he’d be unable to look the husband in the eye later, and chided himself for going around kissing women who are “unavailable.” The columnist, on the other hand, considered herself available, insisting her husband of 12 years wouldn’t have objected. Their marriage is monogamous, she wrote, but with “a small asterisk on [her] part.”
The asterisk is modern marriage as a convenience that begins with a few hastily spoken words (the vows), moves to a big party (the wedding reception) and climaxes – no pun intended – with conjugal rights that too often were enjoyed long before anyone said “I do.”
When marriage* becomes inconvenient, annoying or just plain boring, the aggrieved party is open to other options.
Contrast this with biblical marriage as the once-for-all, “one-flesh” experience God described to Adam and his bride Eve. It’s a relationship that depicts Christ’s faithfulness and unbroken union with His bride, the church, for whom He will return one day and “so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Do we really believe in this kind of marriage anymore?
About six years ago George Barna reported on the waning conventional morality, a consensus about right and wrong, good and evil. People in their 20s and 30s eschew such moral absolutes, living instead by a personal situational ethic: “what’s right for you.”
No surprise then that the Times column went on to praise the modern indulgence in cuckoldry. Historically, to be a cuckold was to be the disgraced husband of an adulteress, which sometimes led to deadly duels demanded by husbands who considered the marriage bed inviolate and an intruder worthy of death.
Sadly, what once was scorned, according to the Times article, is now celebrated as a sporting way to keep marriage interesting. The 1970s-era practice of couples “swinging” is making a comeback.
Christians are called to break ranks with the culture and to affirm marriage as exclusive. God calls us to faithfulness even if we’re bored in bed, repulsed by what used to attract or longing for affection the other party is physically incapable of giving. Christian marriage, real marriage, is finding a way to make the sex in that relationship work.
Finding a way may mean:
- Getting wise counsel
- Getting a physical exam
- Getting in the Bible and on our knees
- Getting over ourselves and embracing self-denial
Nobody can keep that kind of commitment to another human being — and not be filled with bitterness, anger and resentment — without first committing themselves to God. The author of marriage is the only One who can help us keep our commitment to it.
Instinctively, we know that marriage isn’t to be violated on a whim no matter what the culture or our own libido tells us. We also know that commitment comes down to a decision.
After that kiss, the columnist’s male friend responded: “We shouldn’t do this. I should leave.”
And he left.