I remember the day I learned a hero of mine had fallen. His spiritual influence had been tarnished by adultery. I was nauseated when the news came, for I had drunk deeply from the well of his writings, preaching, and life.
I've done a lot of thinking since then.
I've pondered the tragedy to his ministry. I've winced at the shame to him, his family, and the name of Christ. I've asked myself, How many like him must fall before we who are Christians come out of our sanctified closets and admit that sexual temptation does exist? I've grappled over the growing number of Christians who've lost their marriages, families, and ministries due to sexual infidelity.
As a result, I have determined that we need to start asking one another some tough questions. Like a man asking another man, "Are you being the leader of your family and taking care of your wife's needs—spiritually? Emotionally? Sexually? Are you being sexually faithful to your wife? Are you being faithful mentally? Are you reading stuff you shouldn't?" And wife to wife: "Are you sending your husband into the world hungry, with his sexual needs unmet? Are you a 'marriage bed magnet' that causes him to daydream at work about you!?"
I've concluded that it's time we stop assuming we are all beyond temptation and start exhorting husbands and wives to pay more attention to taking care of one another's physical needs.
But for some, any open admission about the sexual dimension of life is strictly taboo. I love to quote Dr. Howard Hendricks' powerful statement about sex, "We should not be ashamed to discuss that which God was not ashamed to create." If God isn't blushing about what takes place in our bedrooms, then why should we?
Here are eight exhortations to affair proof your marriage:
1. Make your marriage bed your priority. Exhaustion is the great zapper of passion. In this on-the-go, always-plugged-in culture, our lives are hectic and our schedules are packed. The result is we have little time and energy to share, give, or receive. Fatigue does not fuel passion.
Practically, some couples could go their own independent way indefinitely, denying their need of one another. But God gave us sex as a drive to merge, to force us out of our isolation.
Am I suggesting that you should write down "sex" on your calendar? I'll let you decide. But some of you don't need a reminder on your smartphone—you just need to say NO to some good things and go to bed early; say about 8 p.m. or so.
2. Talk together about what pleases one another. I once spoke to a group of wives whose husbands are in the ministry. During the message I took a few minutes to address the subject of intimacy and how so many men bomb out of the ministry because of sexual sin.
Afterwards, a young wife came up to tell me about a conversation that she had had with her husband. As they were driving home after he had spoken at church one night, she turned to him and asked, "Sweetheart, what do you want me to do that would help you become a great man of God?" There was a moment of contemplative silence, then his reply came, "When I come home from work, meet me at the door with no clothes on!"
She was dumb-founded! Was he being silly or serious? She has since concluded that he was very serious!
Why not do something tonight that you know would truly please your mate?
3. Fan the flames (or flickers) of romance. When our children were at home, Barbara and I had a small table in our bedroom set with dishes for special evenings. (No, our bedroom isn't that big, it was just that crowded!) We would put the kids to bed with a book or rent a Disney movie as we shared a candlelight dinner, alone. We fanned the flames by re-introducing ourselves and talking.
What setting enables your love for your mate to spark or even ignite? Feed the flames—don't starve them.
4. Have fun with your spouse. Some of us are so serious about "the objective" that we've lost the fun of the relationship. Grins, giggles, and laughter ought to drift out of our bedrooms occasionally. (So what if the kids find out—it'll be good for them to know that Mom and Dad have fun in bed!)
The Lord God, who created 40,000 different kinds of butterflies, never intended that our marriage bed become boring! But some are. Consider just one problem—the clothes many of us wear to bed. Men really aren't excluded here, but I've had some tell me privately that they'd like to burn some of the burlap sacks their wives sleep in. Snap out of the rut—why not have fun shopping together for some new lingerie?
5. Add the element of surprise to your marriage bed. Why not take one of your lunch hours at work to add some sizzle and creativity to your marriage bed? Caution: If the sexual area of your marriage has been a struggle, then it might be good to ask permission before cooking up something you think is wonderful, but might be offensive to your spouse (Romans 15:1-7).
6. Be patient with your spouse. Remember, the Christian life is the process of becoming like Christ. This area of married love and commitment demands that we are continually growing and learning about one another (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
7. Protect your intimacy by avoiding emotional adultery. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far. When you begin to tell a friend of the opposite sex about your intimate struggles, doubts, or feelings, you are sharing your soul in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship, and it often leads to physical involvement. To avoid it, set strict limits about the time you spend with those of the opposite sex, particularly in work situations. And reserve some subjects for your spouse—Barbara and I are careful to share our deepest feelings, needs, and difficulties only with each other.
8. Beware of bitterness. Perhaps nothing should be feared more than that of becoming resentful of your mate's sexual drive or apparent lack of sexual appetite. Bitterness quenches the fires of romance. Keep short accounts and ask forgiveness when you fail or if you have become bitter (Ephesians 4:26-27).
I love what Vonette Bright, wife of the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ said about sex, "It's just as important to be filled with the Holy Spirit in bed as it is in witnessing to another about Jesus Christ."
Why not pull the plug and turn out the lights early tonight?
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1. Read, "Guarding Against Adultery," by Dennis Rainey.
2. Listen to Dennis as he tells couples how to keep their marriage strong in the face of temptation on the FamilyLife Today® series "Romance in the Rain."
3. Read Rekindling the Romance, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.