The consequences of a marriage failing are great. Failure in marriage affects more than husband and wife. Failure also affects friends, the extended family, the children and the children’s children and so many more. Based on the 2016 statistics through the ABS the average number of divorces per day were just under 128 and these divorces impacted the lives of just over 110 children. Attacks on marriage are often one small imperceptible step at a time, but all the time satan is diligent in his attack, as he has been since just after the first marriage.
The reasons given for divorce give us some idea of the most common areas of attack and therefore areas that we need to equip the people of the church, and our wider community, for healthy relationships both within marriage/family and outside. A healthy church is a great incubator for evangelism. With an incubator there is the need for many constants through out and so it is with us in the church. So what are the reasons given for divorce, whilst the last analysis completed by the Australian Government’s Institute of Family Studies was back in 1999, there is much anecdotal evidence around that suggests that there has been little variance since then. That study reported that 71% of divorcees blame “affective issues” for the cause of marital breakdown. Affective issues include: communication problems (27%), loss of connection (21%), and infidelity/trust issues (20%).
In many ways it can be considered that communication problems and loss of connection are all one area. This is part of the reason that the Marriage Investment Bank was founded. Loss of connection was certainly the reason behind John & Linda being burdened to create The Closeness Project. Neither of these are total answers but many couples, no matter the condition of their marriage are participating in order to strengthen their marriage.
Continuing to look at πορνεία (porneia) – which refers to any kind of sexual relation outside of heterosexual marriage of which infidelity is part. This includes sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, incest, prostitution, or bestiality (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:9-11).
1 Corinthians 7:1, 4-5 says this about sexual temptation in marriage: “…“It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. …… Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.” [NRSV]
Verses 3 – 8 of 1 Thessalonians 4 clearly show us God’s will “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.” [NRSV].
Sexual immorality is dishonouring to marriage, which is directly against that written in Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” [KJV] John Gill (1697 – 1791) in his Exposition of the Bible said “Marriage is honourable in all,…. Some read these words as an exhortation, “let” it “be so”; others as an assertion, it is so. “Marriage” is the union of one man and one woman in wedlock, whereby they become one flesh; it is a joining together of male and female in this relation, and of two only, and of such as are not within the degrees of blood forbid by the law, Leviticus 18:6 and of such as are fit for marriage: and this is “honourable,” as it was instituted by God, and has been honoured with the presence of Christ, Genesis 2:22. And it is so…..” see the full text through Christianity.com or Bible Study Tools.
Morality, particularly sexual morality may not be a comfortable subject to address in church but there is a great need for it in the world that we are in. It would be naïve of us to think that the church is not being attacked on this front. Frances Schaeffer wrote this in the 1970’s: “People drift along from generation to generation … and the morally unthinkable becomes thinkable as the years move on.” Schaeffer was right. Today, much is different on the moral landscape to that just a few years ago, and we in the church not only need to guard ourselves but also speak out in love and in truth, seeking to restore values.
As Paul was seeking to equip Timothy he wrote “Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters—with absolute purity. [1 Timothy 5:1-2] This is good guidance to us in our relationships today and is in stark contrast to that modelled around us in the world. We not only need to model these values but also teach them to people around us from an early age. Particularly ensuring that we fully equip, and stand by, our youth and young adults so that they understand that it was God that designed/invented sex to be only for within a lifelong covenant marriage between a man and a woman. That is the right and only place for sex. Anything outside of such covenant marriage is the wrong place, where it incurs God’s judgment.
When darkness is greatest, the light shines the brightest. As we speak out God’s standards of moral purity, His light will shine in this dark world with the good news of God’s forgiveness and with the news that the place for sex is only in marriage.
We have recently added some new books, that specifically relate to these areas, to our booklist. These are from known, well accredited writers that may be useful to equip church leadership, youth leaders and parents – download it here.