The Problem with Game Show Marriages
Dr. Jim Denison
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire is the talk of America. When Darva Conger married Rick Rockwell on national television three weeks ago, everyone was amazed. When she told him two days later that she didn’t want to be his wife, everyone laughed.
Unfortunately, marriage has become much more like that game show than anything God ever intended.
There are half as many divorces granted in a given year in America as marriages performed. One fourth of our adult population has been divorced. 53% of Americans said on a recent anonymous survey that they would have an affair if given the chance. 92% of sexually active people say they have had ten or more partners in their lives.
Marriage today is a game, played for our amusement, and we think we can change the channel whenever we want.
God knows better. He wants us to be pure and holy. He has given us all we need to defeat the temptations of our culture, and offers us hope even when we fail. Let’s see what he says.
What is adultery?
Martin Luther had picturesque ways of putting things. As relates to our topic today, for instance, he once said, “If your head is made of butter, don’t sit by the fire.” On another occasion he declared, “You cannot prevent the devil from shooting arrows of evil thoughts into your heart; but take care that you do not let such arrows stick and grow there.”
We’re going to use his metaphor for our study this morning. So, our first question: what is adultery? What is this “arrow” the enemy fires at us?
Jewish law defined adultery as voluntary sexual relations between a married person and someone other than the lawful spouse. That much is clear. But there’s more.
Adultery is not the only kind of sexual sin forbidden by God’s word.
Colossians 3.5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.”
1 Corinthians 5.9,11: “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. . . . but now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”
1 Corinthians 6.9-10: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Satan has many such arrows.
And Jesus condemns them even further. In the Sermon on the Mount, he articulates the purest standard to be found in all of literature: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5.28).
Jesus forbids immoral action, and even immoral thoughts, as arrows from Satan. Why?
Why is adultery wrong?
There are three basic answers to our question. First, sexual immorality destroys the family.
Dr. Frank Pittman, an internationally renowned expert on sexuality and marriage, reported recently in the New York Times that in thirty-seven years of practice as a therapist, he has encountered only two cases of first marriages ending in divorce where adultery was not involved.
Of those who break up their marriages to marry someone else, 80% are sorry later. Only 10% actually marry the person with whom they had an affair. 70% of those who do later get another divorce.
Sexual immorality is an arrow to the heart of your family and home.
Second, sexual impurity destroys our witness. The only credibility for a Christian is his or her character. If that is ruined, our witness and ministry is ruined. And Satan knows this—he is a great economist. If we can get me or you to sin sexually, even one time, he knows that our witness and ministry will be ruined, perhaps forever.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that the great failures among prominent ministers in recent years have been sexual in nature? Aren’t these Satan’s arrows, fired at us all?
Third, sexual impurity destroys our spiritual lives, our souls. Listen to these profound words from Proverbs: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished” (Proverbs 6.27-29). This is an arrow to the soul.
Charles Allen was the longtime pastor of First Methodist Church in Houston. In his book on the ten commandments he quotes a theology professor’s statement, “About 50% of all human misery is caused by a violation of the seventh commandment.” After decades of pastoral ministry, Dr. Allen came to agree. So would I. This is Satan’s sharpest arrow, indeed.
How do we defeat this temptation?
God has given us some shields to use when we’re being attacked. First, agree with God that sexual immorality is wrong.
Refuse to accept the culture of our day, the “sexual revolution” characterized by the slogans, “Just do it” and “If it feels good, do it.” Hollywood is wrong. The advertisers who simply want to make money off us are wrong. Sexual immorality is wrong.
The Cherokee Indians, in their marriage ceremony, would join hands across a running stream to signify that their lives would flow together forever. And “white men” called them primitive! Agree with God that all sexual immorality is wrong.
Second, guard your heart. This is Satan’s target.
Jesus warned us not to “look at a woman lustfully” (Matthew 5:28). The Greek here does not refer to natural, normal human instincts, but to the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her. This is not about the first look, but the second.