Two weeks ago, while visiting our daughter’s church, Emmaus Church in Suwanee, GA, Dawn and I heard a terrific sermon that addressed the inter-related issues of lust, p__n (I’m avoiding the word in order to prevent sex spam) and infidelity very directly. What made the sermon terrific was that the pastor treated the subject realistically, and yet with a view that pointed people to the gospel of Jesus for the hope of forgiveness, cleansing of conscience, and power to fight this very powerful temptation.
Here’s a few things I believe about lust, p__n and infidelity (LPI, for short):
- These are very powerful temptations that appeal to everyone, no matter how religious.
- The culture we live in mainstreams these temptations so that they present themselves more frequently, and therefore, seem less off-limits.
- These are the most powerful and frequent temptations men face, me included.
- When yielded to, these are among the most destructive sins to the conscience (rationalizing one’s behavior), to spiritual life (feelings of guilt producing a barrier to communion with God), to marriage (relational and sexual alienation between a husband and wife), and to families (separation and divorce).
- While I can’t speak for a woman’s experience, I know that ALL men deal with this. Probably ALL men yield to some level of sexual temptation at some time or another. And MANY men are addicted to their sexual sin, Christian or not, married or not, right now.
- The best way to handle temptation related to LPI is to stay far, far away and make sure someone holds you accountable to stay that way. Paul’s advice to young Timothy was simple: “FLEE!” (2 Timothy 2:22) Why? — Because the temptations related to LPI are like a hungry wolf pack, circling, sniffing out weaknesses, closing in for the kill, and most of us will lose that fight. It’s best to stay in the middle of the herd and run as fast as you can.
Why am I writing about this? It’s because as I listened to this sermon, I was thinking how beneficial it could be for marriages if wives and husbands were strong enough to handle direct discussions about LPI.
Then, later that day, Dawn asked me in a very direct way, “I was thinking about the sermon this morning, are you looking at p__n?”
How did I feel when she asked me this?
I was proud of her for the courage it took to ask. (What if I said, “Yes?”) I was relieved to be able to honestly say, “No, but I’m tempted all the time.” I was happy to invite her to ask me again any time she wanted. And I was anxious (in the good sense) that I would always be able to answer her honestly without a confession of failure.
You see, I think Dawn has a right to know that I’m keeping my marriage vows, and vice versa. So, especially in light of the myriad of sexual temptations, it’s up to us to make sure we proactively communicate our mutual love and faithfulness to have and hold (and behold) none other.
I can only imagine the range of things you might be thinking and feeling as you read this: anything from mocking incredulity to sober reflection. I can’t advise that a discussion about this would be a positive milestone in your marriage. But, I would encourage you to adopt these perspectives on LPI:
- Be biblical – View them as sinful and destructive.
- Be realistic – You’re dealing with them (fleeing or dabbling or embracing), or your spouse is dealing with them, or both.
- Be strategic – Total avoidance and trusted accountability partners of the same gender are the best plan.
- Be gospel-centered – Learn about, and meditate on, all that Christ has done to free you from the power and guilt of all sin. And then, get in a group of Christians that shares and reinforces that hope.
I write this in full realization that you and I are average people for whom sexual sins are powerful temptations, but also in full hope that through Christ we will not be typical in our response to LPI.
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