Every Tuesday we’ll post something to do with strengthening marriages. Hope it helps.
Cheaters Never Prosper
“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. Defraud ye not one the other —“ - I Corinthians 7: 3-5
Sins of omission are harder to spot, and easier to justify, then their more deliberate, obvious counterparts. When I cross a clearly defined line the moral question isn’t a question at all – I shouldn’t have done that. But when I should do something, yet don’t, the casual Oops! My bad response comes more easily, as though neglecting the right is somehow less serious than committing the wrong. That’s a un-Biblical approach, to be sure, since James said plainly that “To him who knoweth to do good and does it not, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Still, wrong but true, sins of omission are often seen as lesser errors.
Within marriage, and especially regarding marriage and sex, this holds doubly true. When we think of a spouse committing sexual sin we generally assume the wrongdoing in question is something adulterous, yet there are other ways to cheat. Paul named one when admonishing married couples to invest in each other’s sexual needs, advising that husbands and wives avoid defrauding each other by withholding sex. His word usage is apt, since he chose a Greek term meaning to cheat by withholding what was formerly agreed on. The spouse who commits adultery cheats; likewise, the spouse who refuses or neglects sexual intimacy is, according to Paul, a cheater a well.
There’s a place for holding off on sex, certainly. Illness, serious marital problems that need to be hashed out before resuming intimacy, and time set aside for fasting and prayer are all legitimate reasons for mutually agreeing on abstinence. And loving consideration also calls a spouse to agree that, if her/his partner is exhausted or hugely stressed, then it can wait until tomorrow night. But when sex is withheld as a form of punishment, or resentment, or is simply ignored because other matters keep crowding in, then an investment which should be made regularly is being, instead, ignored regularly, and both parties, along with the marriage bond itself, will suffer.
I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago that two areas of married life couples often neglect are mutual prayer and their sex life, both of which require planning and protection, and both of which easily get pushed aside when time constraints build and energy wanes. But a marriage lacking in these is also, to my thinking, a marriage lacking a certain vibrancy and core strength. The prayer and devotional bond we discussed two weeks ago, but regarding the sexual bond, a few points should be considered here:
First, God conceived of and created the sexual bond, we didn’t. There are eternal principles expressed in the male/female union, and benefits to body and soul too numerous to list here.
Second, much of what we’ve learned about sex from the world is a lie, the biggest one being that it exists primarily for our individual pleasure. According to Paul, it’s not about me, but my wife, who is entitled to my body (oh lucky lady! I snicker to myself as I write, but that’s what ole’ Paul said) as I am to hers, the focus being her needs, not my own. Marriage is, in general, great for remolding the primary selfishness we’re prone to learn and practice over the years, and marital sex is especially useful in that sense. It’s about giving one’s self to ravish and nurture the partner, not taking.
But finally, it is in the giving that we do receive, and hugely. One of the greatest joys of married sex is the celebration of a covenant that, when honored, fulfills both parties at the deepest levels. To neglect our investment in that is to rob ourselves and each other of what we needed when we first entered into the agreement. We were, after all, created as sexual beings, needing the connection, passion, and vulnerable exchange involved in the act. It’s not, as some may feel, the frosting on the cake, a nice but optional benefit to be enjoyed if convenient. It’s an essential, a real and lasting function of marriage and an investment that, when watched over and cared for, yields high, joyful and eternal returns.
Cheating under any terms is wrong, even when what’s gained from the cheating seems to be worth it. But ourselves of what God’s provided, and of what is in our own best interest, makes no sense at all.