Two Towns Over

A much overworked session of Presbyterian elders had just finished the hard and thankless task of disciplining their minister, a man who taught that being a Christian was an objective reality, marked by baptism, and that being a faithful Christian was a covenant requirement, to be marked by evangelical faith, hope and love. This was clearly over the line, and so they managed to secure his resignation.

Another man in the church had followed these proceedings with interest, but then coincidentally, two weeks later, his wife charged him before the session with the sin of adultery, as he was carrying on an affair with the next door neighbor. The session, quite responsibly, called him on the carpet for this. But they were greatly taken aback by his defense. He admitted the affair with the neighbor lady, but when they called on him to repent of his faithlessness to his wife, he then shocked them all.

“I don’t have a wife,” the man said.

“But you do,” one ruling elder said. “She’s right there.”

“True marriage,” the man said, “is a matter of the heart. I have never been married to her in my heart. Sadly, I have never loved her.”

“But you got married,” another elder said. “In a church. I was there. I heard your vows.”

“All externals,” the sly sinner replied. “What matters, the essential thing, is always the heart. I heard you emphasize this so strongly, and so well, in the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Pastor Smith. A man is not a Christian, I believe you said, of any kind, I think it was, because of what happened in some church. But if vows in church cannot make someone a Christian in any sense of the word, I hardly see how they can make me a husband.”

Of course, the session, being better Christians than they were logicians, dismissed this novel argument, and proceeded with their discipline. The vote was unanimous, but one elder (with a secret amor two towns over) was silently indebted to the man for the argument. “The heart is key,” he thought to himself. “The way to protect true marriage is to limit it to the heart. And this is why I am really married to Tiffany. Two towns over.”

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