We have said that a man has a duty to love his wife as much as Christ loves the church. No discussion of a husband's love for his wife would be complete without considering perhaps the most important feature of true love—fidelity. A man who loves his wife is above all faithful to her.

We live in a world where sexual license so abounds that fewer and fewer people have the privilege of being married to a faithful spouse. Unfaithfulness is undermining the institution of marriage, leaving it on the brink of collapse. Even Christian men and women, men especially, find themselves under continual pressure from the world to let go of sexual purity. Temptations assault them on every hand. How can a Christian man defend himself from these temptations and maintain a pure and faithful marriage pleasing to God? Victory over lust of the flesh and its ruinous effects starts with correct thinking. He must recognize three facts in particular and come to terms with them.

  1. A man is weak. Most men get into trouble because they think they can handle a little bit of sin. They can go so far and then stop. But you can't stop. Once you enter the realm of sin, you lose the protection of the Holy Spirit, and in your flesh you are unequal to your adversary the devil. He will defeat you every time. The only safe place to stop on the road to sin is at the gate before you enter. Don't think you can escape without harm to your soul if you look at some provocative pictures, or share some mildly off-color jokes with your friends, or engage in some delicate flirtation. If that's the way you think, you are headed down the wrong road and you will keep going. Admit your own weakness.
  2. We live in a dangerous world. Don't be naive. Don't get drawn into something just because it is socially acceptable. TV is socially acceptable, but it is brimming with blatant attempts to enslave your heart and mind to sexual sin. The bathing beaches are socially acceptable, but if any of you men can go to the beach without suffering severe temptation, you are made of different stuff than most other men. Don't let your friends convince you that you are some kind of fuddy-duddy because you would rather avoid temptation than have a good time basking in the sun. Don't let your family convince you that by not going to the beach, you are unfairly depriving them of a good time.
  3. The descent into infidelity rarely happens all at once. It is a gradual process, starting with lesser sin and proceeding to greater sin. The best way to protect yourself therefore is to set up safeguards that will keep you from lesser sin. Most men fall into adultery in one of two ways.
    1. It can happen through corruption of the eye, by looking at women either in pictures or on the beaches or elsewhere. This generally goes from bad to worse until it becomes sin on a scale threatening marriage.
    2. It can happen through corruption of the heart, by developing a close relationship with a woman other than his wife. It may be a woman in the workplace such as a secretary. The downfall of many pastors has been a woman who comes in for regular counseling. Another potential danger is a relationship with a woman that develops as a result of you and your wife spending all your time with another couple.

Safeguards against Corruption of the Eye

What safeguards will protect you from getting hooked on the sin of looking at women, a sin that begins in the mind but generally ends up in actual adultery?

  1. I recommend you stay away from TV. The idea that you can look at all the models parading before you and come away morally unscathed is pretty unrealistic. And if you try to turn your head away from the screen whenever something indecent appears, you will die of sheer dizziness.
  2. I recommend you stay away from the beaches. Many years ago I heard a pastor say that he protected himself by humming hymns while he was lying there on his beach blanket. My opinion of that? I thought it was pretty childish. Let's get real. His basic fallacy was to think of hymns as a sort of magical incantation. Power over lust lies not in some words, but in a person, the Holy Spirit, and we cannot expect His help if we deliberately place ourselves under temptation for no good reason.
  3. You should not use the internet without protective measures. Your options include a filter such as Hedgebuilders or an accounting system such as Covenant Eyes.
  4. Be careful of the mail. In our two residences prior to where we live now, we received pornography addressed to a previous occupant. Even clothing catalogs have become a sort of soft pornography. Thus, never send a teen-age boy to the mailbox. It's best for a woman to go. One trial for all of us is the obscene mail that abounds on the internet. One rule is, never open an attachment unless you know the source personally. I am sorely disappointed that a court in Virginia recently threw out anti-spam legislation. Why does someone's freedom of speech give him the right to degrade my life and waste my time with wicked mail?
  5. Despite all these precautions, you won't escape temptation aimed at lust of the eye. An indecent or sexually aggressive woman might confront you anywhere, at Wal-Mart, on the sidewalk, wherever you go. What you must do is be sure that the devil will never catch you off guard. Whenever you leave the house, you must remind yourself, "If I see anything wicked, I will look away and ignore it." What does the Bible call this? "A covenant with the eyes" (Job 31:1). This is a covenant you must renew whenever you leave the house. Otherwise, you will forget it, the devil will dangle temptation before you at a moment of vulnerability, and he will trap you in sin. When are you vulnerable? When you are discouraged or thoughtless or preoccupied with some form of self-seeking.

Safeguards against Corruption of the Heart

Now let us think about the safeguards against a close relationship that could lead to adultery.

  1. I myself would never take a job that required constant private dealings with another woman. Having a secretary is okay if other people are always around and you never meet with her socially. Even then, you must be careful. If you have a hand in the hiring process, give preference to someone who is totally unappealing. Of course, never tell your new employee why she was chosen. It is a good idea to get your wife's input on who works with you.
  2. I mentioned counseling relationships. A pastor should avoid counseling any woman who is unmarried or unhappy with her marriage. The right person to counsel her is his wife or, even better, a woman trained in counseling.
  3. Never focus your social life on a small group consisting of two or three couples. Broaden your horizons to include as many people as possible. That's a Christian duty. It's called hospitality, which is a way of serving other people. Limiting your attention to a few friends who share your interests and laugh at your jokes is a way of serving yourself.

General Policies to Protect Your Marriage

Besides these specific safeguards, there are some general policies that will protect your marriage.

  1. Let your wife be your accountability partner. It has always been our practice to tell each other where we are and what we are doing. We always stay in contact with each other. Also, I give my wife freedom to discuss any concern she might have, and vice versa. I long ago granted her the right to question me about anything.
  2. Factor your wife into your life as much as possible.
    1. Include her in your business, if you can.
    2. Take her along on trips whenever possible.
    3. Eat with her. Meet for lunch even though it may be inconvenient.
    4. Create special times to be together. One of our traditions is a Friday night date, which perhaps has given rise to my saying, "Most of the good things in life happen on Friday." Now that the children have left home, our weekly date has lost some of its significance, but now we can think of every night as a date, though only a date to stay at home.

God has made it easy for us to share our lives because we are both teachers. For thirty years we have always worked for the same employer. Generally we have ridden to work together, met together for lunch, and ridden home together. Never have our classrooms been far apart. Often we have been partners in supervising the same grades. Now we teach in the same room. In our married lives the times we have been separated for any reason have been few and far between: times when she was in the hospital, times when I had to go on trips, but altogether no more than two or three months out of forty plus years of marriage. Consequently, it's hard for me to function without her.

A few years ago, the older students in the Christian school where we were teaching went on an excursion to Washington, D.C. It was a rather arduous trip, lasting about ten days, with constant movement from place to place. My wife and I decided that her health would not permit her to go. So I went without her. All went well for about three days. Then I was struck with a bad case of homesickness. One evening as the kids were wandering around a mall, I sat alone in the food court sipping a drink (a cappuccino, I think it was) and feeling extremely sorry for myself. I couldn't understand why life had exiled me from my wife, why I was expected to enjoy myself without her companionship. The kids saw me moping and came to ask the reason. I explained, and from that time on, they teased me mercilessly about it. They thought it funny that Dr. Rickard missed his wife. But what they didn't understand is that she is so much a part of my world in every aspect, whether working or eating or sleeping, that when she is removed, going through life is rather like playing the piano with one hand or driving a car blindfolded. It is life with a missing ingredient, as though a rib were suddenly snatched from my body. And indeed she is the missing rib.