"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Terra Firma of Marital Fidelity

As parents in an electronic age, my wife and I are all but bombarded with newsletters, e-mails, and the like pertaining to the art and science of raising children, whether we seek them or not.  Most seem (and seem only, for we do not usually read them) to fall into the "marginally silly, thankfully innocuous" category (indeed, what did this world do before technology cluttered our proverbial doorsteps with such a myriad of dubious opinions and panaceas?  How did our forebears even survive?). 

And then we encountered one for mothers entitled "3 Signs That Flirting Has Crossed the Line."  One might have hoped that perhaps this was an article for single moms, or that possibly it was penned so parents could watch for foolish behavior in their older kids - wishful thinking.  No; the intent was to set a expansive fence around flirtatious behavior for married moms, so they could operate in a manner that would gratify their need for flirting with other men, while carefully preserving their marriages. 

I should like to laugh such an idea off, and would indeed do so, were it not for the sad truth that this sort of ideology has burrowed into our culture (which we lament, but expect), and has even stained the halls of Christendom (which defies our expectations, but excites little surprisein this age).  It seems that married believers can very easily become far too comfortable with the opposite gender, I fear, and I delve into this subject for that express reason.  For the sake of citing sources only, the original article may be found here.  I do not, however, recommend reading it, and, in a bid to stanch your curiosity, I will mention the first of the three signs directly - it should more than suffice to make the point at hand.  Remember, I did not invent this.

"1.  Are You Disrespecting Your Partner?"  While "occasional crushes" are to be expected for married people, any flirtation should be done with the full knowledge and permission of one's spouse.  Or so says the article.

The marriage state is begotten in the promise of fidelity and special love.  "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her," says Paul in Ephesians 5:25.  Do we suppose that Christ occasionally leaves the church, just for a moment, and goes off to indulge His fancy with the world?  Dare we think that even the smallest instance of that love which Jesus has specially portioned out for His church is diverted into the bosoms of unrepentant sinners instead?  Surely not!  This is the faithfulness that is impressed upon husbands in Scripture, and if it be so for husbands, then it can be no different for wives.

Consider for a moment what it is for a husband or wife to flirt outside of marriage.  If it is serious flirting, it is expressing an interest which should have been stamped out when it was still an impulse.  It is the fruit of a temptation allowed to grow into sin.  This interest, being unduly encouraged, must either end in disappointment or in adultery.  Flirting, in this case, promises things which cannot be delivered without grievous consequences. 

Probably most extramarital flirting, however, would fall into the category of spontaneous, uncalculated, even humorous flirting.  It is done lightly and not taken seriously - surely there is no harm here, especially if the spouse does not object?  To this we must answer, what is the object of this sort of flirting?  If it is purely humor, why must we light upon humor which suggests a romantic interest?  Is infidelity so merry a jest?  Do we seek to build friendships with people based upon the joke of our romantic intentions?  And any other object besides humor must be worse, I think.

We might approach it in this way:  what is more loving to one's spouse, to give him or her most of your romantic attentions, or to give all?  Why squander time and effort in crafting a romantic ruse to deliver elsewhere, whatever your intentions?  Your wife might laugh off your flirtatious endeavors (at least on the surface), but she would not be unmoved, I would wager, were you to swear off such activities solely from a desire to please her all the more.  Marriage is not the best environment for doing only the bare minimum, friend.  "And do you, so-and-so, take this woman to be your lawfully-wedded wife?  Will you promise to perform the littlest work she will allow in order to maintain your marriage by the slimmest margin?"  I will guess that the words spoken at your wedding tend more toward, "Will you love and cherish and honor her above all?"

Still another approach would be to consider the need for caution.  There are those who seek to commit adultery, and so go about seeking a partner for this sinful work, to be sure.  However, are there not many more who do not seek such sin, but fall into it all the same, because they have been unguarded in their relations with others around them?  I do not need to look for sin in order to fall into it, sadly.  My powers of unconscious righteousness are not so great as this, and so I must maintain a vigilance of heart so as not to permit occasions which may tend toward temptation (1 Peter 5:8-11).

And yet again, and most importantly, what of the opinion of the Lord?  Let us boil down this sort of "innocent" flirting to its essence:  "I am going to carefully lie about something sinful in a bid to make someone of the other gender laugh."  Does the deception bemuse our Father?  Will He congratulate us for failing to avoid the look of sinfulness?  No; wait a moment - He will be blessed by our efforts to open the door of temptation for the one with whom we flirt, or to establish patterns of unbecoming thought in our own minds.  All is clear now.

All sarcasm aside, be mindful, dear brother, dear sister, in all your interactions.  You will not be disappointed by the Lord, I think, if you seek your satisfaction above all in pursuing Him and His righteousness.  This will afford the strength of humble selflessness need to maintain the utmost fidelity to your spouse, and thus to honor the blessed and enduring covenant of matrimony which He Himself laid down in antiquity. 


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