We may all agree that adultery is not a good thing, but our opinions here sometimes appear to be a mud fence we have built to withstand an incoming tsunami. Something more, we feel, may be necessary.
In the modern church, a pastor can commit adultery, and get caught. It is at least possible that, in the aftermath of the scandal, if there is a scandal, he can expect to get some counseling, and be back in the pulpit in a matter of weeks. If he is lucky, he might get a book deal out of the whole thing. As we consider the pattern of contemporary evangelical Christians (as distinct from historic believing evangelicals), we would be hard-pressed to show any distinctive difference between the sexual behavior of evangelical Christians and the behavior of their unbelieving counterparts.
As with so many issues, we need to get to the root of the matter. And the root of the matter is our general pattern of self-indulgence. We maintain a culture which is designed to enervate any serious attempts at the virtue of self-control.
One writer astutely observed that America has turned into a nation of large toddlers. We all, from successful businessmen on down, dress as though we were little ones. The uniforms of little kids can be seen everywhere. We see baseball caps, baggy pants (big enough to hide the diapers), oversized sneakers, untied (haven’t learned that yet), and then, in the weirdest twist of all, we see that everyone appears to be carrying around bottles with giant nipples. All we need is for some bright engineer in Detroit to figure out a way to make our cars look like strollers, and for someone else to figure out how to market adult binkies.
We as a nation are not used to any instruction or discipline on how to control our passions and desires, in any area. We are pampered as toddlers, indulged as schoolchildren, spoiled as teenagers, and by the time we come to young adulthood, we are floating in a small lake of material prosperity and assorted stock options. When, where, in what area, have we ever been told, No? If such an event were to occur, as rare as a slow comet, we take it ill.
Now, with this as our context, just to make it a little more interesting, throw in sexual desire. If we want a car, we charge it. If we want a bag of chips, we buy it. If we want better grades, we whine to the instructor. Now, given this, what happens when we want our neighbor’s wife? This is not a trick question.
What is needed is a return to discipline, in every area. This should not be problematic for Christians, because this is simply a call for renewed discipleship. Disciples, by definition, are those under discipline. But this call is problematic for the modern Church because discipleship is not sufficiently sensitive to market forces. It says no to those who show up at the door expecting to be told yes. This is what lies behind the massive shift to ecclesiastical marketing, and seeker-sensitive churches. We approach unbelieving America, arms wide open, saying that we can meet all felt needs. What we ought to be doing is preaching the Word, maintaining that we expect to encounter various lusts and desires, masquerading as felt needs, and when we do, we will do our level best to punch them all in the head.
If any man would be my disciple, Jesus did not say, let him affirm himself, and know that God don’t make no junk. Let him learn to feel good about himself. Let him learn to view heaven as a giant vending machine.
As long as this sorry state of affairs exists in the Church, we can continue to expect affairs in the Church. As long as we continue to adulterate our liturgy, our preaching, our confessional standards, our psalm and hymn singing, we can continue to expect men and women to adulterate their marriage vows. Why should they not be unfaithful in what they have been given? Their churches are unfaithful in what they have been given.
This is just another way of saying that everything is connected. Piecemeal reformations will only exasperate us in their futility. We are overwhelmed by our adversaries, but this is because they are still too small. Goliath needs to be a giant before the Bible story can be reenacted. Because we want to “divide and conquer” we continue to ignore the real nature of the war, and we continue to suffer one tactical defeat after another. We want to face fifteen little goliaths, one at a time. This is why each little goliath takes us down. We need to recover the faith of David, and pray that the whole system of unbelief, the massive resistance to discipleship, will be seen all at once, all together, lying on the ground with a stone in its forehead.
The word of Christ is all-encompassing. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, and He invites followers to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. Those who do not want to follow Him need not do so. But they cannot “not follow Him” and “follow Him” at the same time. They cannot halt between two ways of life. They cannot indulge themselves, affirm themselves, stroke themselves, and deny themselves. And those who try frequently wind up in the wrong bed.