by J. Carl Laney
This past May I spent three weeks in Israel introducing 30 Western Seminary Students to the Land of the Bible. It was a rich and rewarding time of travel, study, fellowship and spiritual growth. There were many special highlights on the trip including our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, our climb down the Arbel cliffs and our evening of sharing followed by Communion on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
One of the most memorable experiences for me took place in the City of David as I was explaining the excavation of David’s palace. It was thrilling to look upon the foundations of the palace that King David built in Jerusalem after capturing the fortress of Zion from the Jebusites. At one point, we gathered at the eastern edge of David’s palace, which overlooks a residential section of ancient Jerusalem. From here I reminded the students of that sleepless night when David was on the roof of his palace and noticed a woman bathing in the courtyard of her house somewhere down below. I recounted how instead of turning his eyes away and respecting Bathsheba’s privacy, David lusted in his heart, pursued a relationship and committed adultery.
There’s something about being there that makes the story so much more vivid. David succumbed to adultery because he had not taken steps to anticipate his temptation and prepare his response beforehand. And we are as vulnerable to adultery as David if we don’t anticipate and prepare our minds and hearts to respond to temptation.
Having witnessed the demise of many marriages, my wife Nancy and I we are taking precautions to make sure that such a disaster does not take place with us. Over the years we have discovered ten keys that have helped us to avoid the tragedy of marital infidelity.
We make our relationship a sacred priority.
A rose bush needs lots of attention. It needs to be watered, fertilized, trimmed and pampered. A marriage is no different. Only by giving our marriage special attention and making our relationship a high priority will it be the blessing that God intended.
We strive to dress and look our best.
The world is full of attractive, well-dressed people. Some are anxious to catch the eye of a dissatisfied spouse. We try to look our best when saying “good-bye” for the day. We want to leave each other with a pleasant memory of the attractive person God has given us for a spouse.
We make each other feel needed and appreciated.
One of a person’s fundamental needs is to feel loved, needed and appreciated.A loving spouse can do a great deal to meet this need. A partner who feels neglected and unappreciated may look to someone outside the marriage to have this need met.
We are committed to strengthening our marriage.
There are many ways a couple can work to build a stronger marriage. Read together a book on marriage. Attend a marriage enrichment seminar. Or take a weekend holiday without the children.
We need more than each other.
Nancy and I both have Christian friends with whom we can confide and pray about spiritual struggles and temptations. In explaining his moral lapse, a prominent Christian leader acknowledged that it happened during a time when he was “lacking in mutual accountability through personal relationships.”
We take care not to sexualize all our needs for intimacy.
According to the Bible, sexual intimacy is appropriate only in the context of marriage. But there can be intimacy among friends without sex. This comes about as we share emotions, experiences, learning, and spiritual life together. It is crucial for Christians to decide on the perimeters and limitations of intimacy early in the development of a relationship.
We recognize the spiritual aspects of our physical union.
Many people fall into the trap of illicit behavior because they focus on the mechanics and sensations of sex instead of the spiritual communion that comes through self-giving and personal sacrifice in marriage. Sex must be person, not performance oriented. To separate sexual union from intimate, spiritual communion is to neglect one of the most important dimensions of God’s design.
We are available to one another for intimate times.
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor. 7:4). Being available and willing to satisfy a spouse’s sexual desires is a strong defense against marital infidelity.
We strive to keep the sparkle in our physical relationship.
A love letter, a spontaneous lunch date or the sizzle of an overnight together in a resort hotel helps keep the sparkle in our marriage. All this costs something in time and resources. But the dividends paid into our marriage are more than worth the investment.
We plan carefully for periods of separation.
Phone calls and emails help keep our communication lines open during an absence. These serve as reminders of our strong commitment to each other even when we are apart. During absences we also pray for one another, maintain a disciplined devotional life, and are careful in planning the use of free evening hours.
It is not easy to maintain marital faithfulness. But it is absolutely essential if we want to honor God with strong marriages. And, by God’s grace and enablement, it is possible to maintain sexual purity and avoid adultery (1 Cor. 10:13).
Few Christians actually decide to go out and decide to commit adultery. But they sometimes slide into an immoral relationship because, like King David, they have never made a personal commitment to marital faithfulness. Nancy and I have made this commitment. We have verbalized this commitment in the presence of our children, friends and colleagues. We recognize that there is just one person with whom we can have a God honoring sexual relationship. As a married couple, we have committed ourselves to delighting in each other and resisting Satan’s subtle temptations to compromise. We have been married for forty-one years–and it is working.