Thirteen years ago when the new office and Family Life Center of Farmville Presbyterian Church were being built, I remember having a discussion about the pastor’s door. A church member said that most pastors and counselors had a window in their door at work. She described a certain minister with very strict self-imposed rules about having the secretary in the next room when counseling sessions were going on and not meeting a woman in a private location. At the time, the restrictions seemed a bit over-the-top to me. I also had female friends from a former church who were very careful about how they or their husbands spent time alone with people of the opposite sex. Again, I wondered if that were really necessary.
All of these years later, I must ask myself, “As a society and a church do we tend to err on the side of safeguarding marriage too much or too little?” Most of us have witnessed the unfortunate results of infidelity in a marriage. While many can work through it, some spouses never get over the sense of betrayal. If there are children involved, they might feel the devastating consequences for a long time, if not permanently. Resentment towards the offending parent may result.
Adultery is selfish, as are most of our sins. We break our marriage vows, perhaps in the moment not realizing or not caring that it will inevitably hurt those closest to us. In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus was asked about divorce and spelled out God’s intention for marriage. “’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
When we view the Christian community as family, we understand our need to encourage and, at times, challenge our brothers and sisters. If we see a married friend spending a good amount of time with a person of the opposite sex who is not his/her spouse, we probably need to ask him/her privately about it. Voicing our loving concern, however uncomfortable, could make a real difference in the life of a family.
Of course, God is forgiving and can restore relationships. Please read Psalm 51. It is a touching confession by David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and caused the death of her husband. He accepted full responsibility for his sin. He did not shift blame or rationalize his actions. Despite some terrible choices, David is called “a man after God’s own heart.” All sin has consequences, but God restores us when we confess and change.