Saturday, December 29, 2007

Infidelity and Divorce Among the Faithful

Emotional attraction is a mysterious thing to me. It seems that there are so many factors in the attraction equation. In all cases, the question of attraction can be boiled down to one observation, and that is this: that one is attracted to something or someone because there is a need that one perceives, often not consciously or deliberately, that the object of the attraction can meet. We tend to be attracted to people for friendship because the personality of certain others is such that we wish to identify with them. They may resonate with us in some way or exhibit characteristics that we don’t have, but wish we did.

I’m attracted to unique individuals because I am a unique individual and most everyone else has a level of predictability that fails to stimulate me interpersonally. We may choose a certain automobile because we think that others will see us favorably, or at least more accurately, behind the wheel. I know people who drive vans and call them SUVs. Why? Because they perceive a certain sociological stigma with driving a van and they fear being identified as one who is in such mean estate as to warrant driving a van.

One thing my wife and I learned in premarital counseling is that it is unreasonable to expect one’s spouse to meet all of one’s emotional needs. We are to be identified with one another explicitly, exclusively, mutually and mortally with regard to our marital covenant. However, while we are principally and in principle to meet one another’s needs, realistically we will each have needs that may preclude our capacity to fulfill our purpose from time to time. God is certainly aware of this.

No married couple is an island. We have the sociological context of family, church and community, all of which may overlap. We must develop good relationships with those outside the marriage who likewise support our marriage. When the struggles of daily life present the temptation to play the Adam, Eve and serpent blame game, we need the ear of someone who won’t be put off by the disclosure of our distress and who is trustworthy to provide the proper perspective on the sacrificial service we are called to bear for our spouse.

The divorce rate is alarmingly high. The divorce rate among Christian churchgoers is no different than that outside the church. Perhaps it is because mature Christians don’t cohabitate sans marriage like many non-Christians. If you throw the breakups of cohabitating couples into the statistical mix, then a striking difference may be noted. Nevertheless, Christians should not be divorcing each other.

What has changed to cause the divorce rate has escalated? Perhaps it is that sociological expectations have changed. Commitment to a marriage was once expected of spouses by those who knew them and had some influence in their lives. But the influence of others has changed. Wher we were once influenced locally by others who knew us, we have been increasingly influenced by the opinions of celebrities in the media who decidedly don't know us.

Who gives others influence over our lives? We do. However, it is a sign of weakness to allow others to have influence over us. We know this because we allow those who espouse such a view to have influence over us. We see the view espoused in movies. We see popular people and strong leaders who have other bend their will to theirs by for no other reason than they have a charisma that draws other people to them - not because they are particularly wise.

The people who should have influence over us are those who who would improve our marriage. First, our spouse, inasmuch as he or she is obedient to Christ. Secondly, our freinds and family inasmuch as they are obedient to Christ. Thirdly, our church family and ministers inasmuch as they are obedient to Christ. Christ established the pattern for a marriage in the willingness to sacrifice all for your spouse.

The same sociological degredation that is destroying our marriages also causes distrust in the community at large. We suspect, often correctly so, that when others ask how we are doing today they don't really want to know the truth.
We are often more concerned with whether we are being awkward than with building true friendships. We don't engage others on a level where they are in a position to influence us positively because we don't trust that they will actually want to help us. Furthermore, and not so tangentially, the homosexual agenda has caused otherwise straight people to fear this sociological intimacy that is necessary for personal influential accountability.

When we don't recieve the emotional intimacy we need through appropriate means, we are prone to percieve that the need can be met in otherwise inappropriate ways. A husband who finds himself attracted to a woman who is not his wife percieves that she will meet the needs that are not being met otherwise. For a church to handle an adulterous husband with proper church discipline is good. However, when the church fails to encourage the appropriate relationships that would have prevented the adultery in the first place, then the church as a body needs to repent for they have not ministered to the sinful man and encouraged righteousness. Indeed, the ills of fallen society have permeated our Christian fellowship.

I've become increasingly convicted of this and have sought to find a means to encourage the growth of a men's ministry in my church which has a corporate foundation, but draws on the strength of the personal invesment of individuals in the ministry. A program will fail, but changing sociological expectations is the only way to succeed in changing the viability of marriages in the church. If you are a Christian man, I encourage you to take steps in your own church to these ends for it is only on a local level through the actions of individuals that this trend will change and we will become truly faithful to Christ in our marriages.

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