Guarding Your Marriage without Dissing Women
Another day, another high-profile sex scandal. Many Americans yawned when Arnold Schwarzenegger's extramarital activities hit the headlines two weeks ago. By now it's difficult to escape the fatalistic feeling that we've seen it all before and will see it all again, and soon.
To their credit, though, some Christians took the opportunity to discuss practical ways of staying faithful to one's spouse. On his website, Michael Hyatt, chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, wrote a post titled, "What Are You Doing to Protect Your Marriage?" Hyatt listed tips such as investing time and energy in one's marriage, remembering what's at stake, and setting specific boundaries. The boundaries Hyatt sets for himself, which he says "may sound old-fashioned, perhaps even legalistic," are the following:
I will not go out to eat alone with someone of the opposite sex.
I will not travel alone with someone of the opposite sex.
I will not flirt with someone of the opposite sex.
I will speak often and lovingly of my wife. (This isthe best adultery repellant known to man.)
I really appreciate that Hyatt and other Christian leaders are addressing this issue, because I know what it's like to watch a Christian leader fall. When I was 15, the senior pastor at my church—a man deeply beloved and admired by his congregation—left his wife for his secretary. Words can't capture the spiritual and emotional devastation this man and woman left in their wake. Though they would eventually repent and confess their sin before the church, some of us carry scars to this day. So I can be nothing but grateful for Christians who make the effort to stay pure and who teach others to do the same.
At the same time, I want to humbly offer a word of caution: Sometimes, practical tips like the ones I've described can lead to practical problems.
Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like fame discovered this when he wrote a post on "Awkward opposite sex friendships," inspired by his decision to request a male driver when he spoke at a conference. In the post, Acuff acknowledged some of the difficulties that can come up when Christian men work or have other public interactions with women:
What about having a one on one meeting with a woman? Is it enough to just leave the door open? Or do you have to have three people present at all times? I know churches who use both approaches.
What about a lunch meeting? A married friend recently told me that if he couldn't go out to lunch with females he couldn't do his job. Is lunch with a lady a date? What if it's a business lunch? The CEO of Zondervan is a lady, what if she calls me and says, "Jon, we'd like to give you a 37 book deal and your own Honda Ruckus Scooter for a cross country tour called 'Ruckus by Ruckus,' can we go out to lunch to discuss the details?" Do I have to invite someone along with me? What if my wife is not available that day?
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