Volume 7, Issue 4: Husbandry
The biblical standard of sexual morality is not difficult to understand. God
requires absolute purity, mental and physical, prior to marriage, and absolute
fidelity, mental and physical, after marriage. The fact this is easy to
understand does not mean it is easy to do, but it nevertheless is easy
The clarity of this requirement means that those who want to get around it,
while thinking to themselves that they are actually obeying it, or thinking
that their disobedience isn't all that bad, must resort to various ingenuities.
Peter tells us that we are to abstain from various fleshly lusts which war
against our souls (1 Pet. 2:11). As with all warfare, sometimes the assault is
straight up the middle, while other times subterfuge is employed. If a man is
tempted to head down to a strip joint while the family thinks he is shopping
for a Mother's Day present, we could consider that as an "assault up the
middle." But there are many other snares which are not nearly so blatant
and which ensnare men just as effectively.
Some men daydream at length about sexual activity with women other than their
wives, and sanctify this in their minds by including marriage vows as part of
the daydream. In other words, in their daydreams they are lawfully single again
(perhaps a grieving widower? Such a trial, really . . . ), and then because
they marry their new partner, whatever goes on is okay, right? Not
right. Wanting another man's wife as one's own wife is right at the
heart of breaking the tenth commandment (Ex. 20:17).
Another contrivance is established by the amateur sociologist, who watches
programming and reads magazines he ought not in the name of keeping a
thoughtful finger on America's pulse. "This is an important film for
understanding postmodern culture . . ." He is helped in this in the fact
that half the people at church have seen this important film, too. Important
films are distinguished from dirty movies by three biblical criteria, but I
forget what they are.
Then another man silently blames his wandering mind on his wife. "If
she met my needs . . . If she only . . . And if
she . . ." A man who thinks this way is like someone who wants to
buy a new house because the lawn there is freshly mowed, and the lawn
where he lives isn't. He may not be courageous enough to sin openly, but he
justifies indulging his mental lust by saying that his wife would have no right
to complain if she knew because she is the one who sets him up. The
problem here is that lust is not a sin against a wife; it is a sin against
God (Ps. 51:4). Moreover, a man who has an unresponsive wife is
responsible to God for that too.
Someone else buys the pop-adage that "it doesn't matter where you get
your appetite, as long as you eat at home." And so he tells himself that
he is actually working hard to improve his relationship with his wife
this way. Way to sacrifice, big guy. A variation of this involves mental
scissors and library paste and self-justifying editorial skills. I once had a
conversation with a Christian man who said that whenever he was looking at
another woman's naked body, he just imagined his wife's face on her. But the
Bible doesn't tell us to be satisfied with our wives from the neck up (Prov.
5:19). It should consequently be no big surprise to find out that all such
promised "improvements" in the marriage relationship are fleeting at best.
A man cannot contrive a defense for this out of the fact that his wife
"doesn't mind" if he looks around. Again, sexual fidelity is not a
duty a man owes to his wife; it is a duty a man owes to God
concerning his wife. Put another way, a wife has no authority to give
this kind of permission. Only God may give it, and He has not done so.
Another man has discovered that there is nothing like sin to turn one into
a precise exegete. "Jesus said not to lust after a woman. But what
does lust refer to anyway? What's the Greek word? And what is the exact
dividing line between appreciation of beauty on the one hand, and lust on the
other? We have to be careful not to go beyond the Scriptures." The
point is simultaneously well-taken and much-abused. The real issue is simply
honesty. The sin of lust is distinguished from temptation to lust
(and appreciation of beauty), but this does not mean that the realm of
temptation is a good place for a man to stand, however nice the view. One of
the simple in Proverbs lost his life for being stupid before he got into
overt adultery. "With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with
her flattering lips she seduced him" (Prov. 7:21). A popular head game
with Christian men is the idea that "I can do this, and still not
fall." But when a man has gotten it into his head that the goal of his
sanctification is to be as close to sin as he can get without actual
sin, he has already joined the ranks of the simple - and deserves
everything he gets.