The Necessity of Fidelity in Marriage
by Don Alexander
via Truth Magazine, Vol. 52, No. 9, September, 2008.
Behaviors reflect one's values and priorities. Our most important live relationships suffer when our behaviors and words do not arise from a sense of fidelity and trustworthiness. The Psalmist cried out, "Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor, their flattering lips speak with deception" (Psalms 12:1,2 NIV). The New Testament teaches us to regulate our behaviors and words by authority of Jesus and to His ultimate glory "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus..." (Colossians 3:17). "Fidelity," translating the word "pistos", means "the character of one who can be trusted, relied on." Pistis and Pistos most often express "faith," "trustworthiness," "reliable," and "faithful" in the New Testament (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). It is important for the Christian to have "fidelity" and to display that faithfulness in all of life's realms, including marriage.
The Importance Of Being Faithful
There are several reasons why "fidelity" is emphasized in the Bible, showing it importance:
- It is the character of God Himself (I Corinthians 1:9; 10:13; II Corinthians 1:18; II Timothy 2:1-3). The apostle John wrote that, if we "confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). We who seek to serve the God of Heaven must be like Him.
- It is the character of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (II Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 2:17; 3:2-6; Revelation 1:5). And who can ignore the One who is the "Faithful and True" who leads us to victory over sin and persecution (Revelation 3:14)? We need the Lamb of God to faithfully carry out His intercession on our behalf and be true to His "exceedingly great and precious promises" (II Peter 1:4).
- It is the character of the trustworthy Scriptures (Acts 13:23-24; I Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:19; II Timothy 2:11; Titus 1:9; 3:8; Revelation 21:5; 22:6). Our salvation and hope for the future with God depend on the trustworthiness of the Bible as God's special revelation to man.
- It is the character that describes God's servants as trustworthy. In the Parable of the Talents taught by Jesus, it was faithfulness that separated the "good" servants from the "whisked" servant (Matthew 25:21-23). Other New Testament passages echo the call to be "faithful" (I Corinthians 4:2-17; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; 4:7,9; I Timothy 1:12; II Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 3:5; I Peter 5:12).
- It is the quality the "believer" must have who lives a life of obedience to God in order to receive His promises (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:1-6; Romans 1:16,17; 10:9,10; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:41). Such fidelity or faithfulness to Christ is "unto death" in order to "receive a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). The apostle Paul served Christ consistently and faithfully in fighting the "good fight." He "finished the course" and "kept the faith." Henceforth there was "laid up for me a crown of righteousness" which he believed the faithful God would "give unto me at that day" (II Timothy 4:7,8).
Faithfulness to God produces in us faithfulness to others (Romans 1:16,17; Matthew 22:34-40). One who is not faithful in loving God will not be faithful in loving his "neighbor as himself." Faithfulness to God is further demonstrated in our business relations (Ephesians 4:28ff). Finally, faithfulness in domestic relationships is directly dependent on our faithfulness to God. Read chapters 5 and 6 of Ephesians along with chapters 3 and 4 of Colossians and be impressed with this direct connection. The Christian does not need to "swear" with an oath to make his words "faithful"; his word is his bond in God's world (Matthew 5:33-37).
Challenges to Marital Fidelity
We have no right before God to compartmentalize our lives, being "faithful" at the assemblies of the church while being "unfaithful" in our daily lives. And, in fact, it is futile to try. A husband will be no more faithful to his wife than he is to his Creator. A wife who loves the Lord will love her husband and be faithful to him also. Satan, always the adversary of the faithful child of God, will seek to use vulnerability of marriage partners to destroy faithfulness, fidelity in marriage. In over forty years of preaching the gospel and twenty years of those years also as a professional marriage and family counselor working with couples in trouble, I have noticed at least seven vulnerability factors which threaten marital fidelity:
- Uncertain Fidelity To God's Will: It is forever that "Unless the Lord build a house we labor in vain who build it" (Psalms 127:1-3). When marriage partners are unclear on their devotion to the Will of God as expressed in the Bible and do not base their decisions on its precepts, trouble ensues.
- Binding The Marriage By Material Possessions: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:24-34). A marriage is often the most vulnerable after enough time has gone by to acquire possessions. Some divorce because their expectations to acquire possessions were not fulfilled.
- Emotional Immaturity Or Unresolved Conflict: Self-centeredness, dictatorial demanding, pouting attitudes, or nagging cause a marriage to be vulnerable to unfaithfulness.
- Withdrawing From Communication With One Another: When marital partners quarrel and do not resolve their differences they stack up like scrap lumber. And the snakes, rats, and other creatures crawl in. It is always good to be "swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath" (James 1:19).
- Lack Of Honesty: Honesty is speaking the truth in love, living the truth, and openness with one another. Those who are to become "one flesh" cannot harbor double lives and use double tongued speech with each other. "Speak the truth with your neighbor" also, more so, applies to one's spouse (Ephesians 4:25).
- Fantasizing About Others Than Your Own Spouse: Jesus teaches us that the mind is connected to he body and provides its motivation. The mind is so powerful that we can visualize illicit sexual relations about a co-worker or friend of the opposite sex (Matthew 5:27-32). Husbands and wives have an obligation to each other exclusively (I Corinthians 7:1ff). "Lord, I looked but never touched" won't hold up at the judgment and it destroys faithfulness this side of eternity. Christian men must take the lead in overcoming the tendency to make women sexual toys.
- Inappropriate Or Questionable Behavior With Those Of The Opposite Sex: Husbands and wives should agree on how they each will relate to others. "Just a business lunch?" "Just an e-mail?" "Just a coffee break conversation?" "Just a little unwinding later after a hard day's work?" Save it all for your wife or husband and don't fall for a grand illusion that your secretary is more understanding than your wife.
Strengthening Your Marital Fidelity
It is important not only to avoid infidelity, but also to strengthen fidelity. There are four things that can help couples to be faithful to each other in marriage:
- Make sure you and your spouse are faithful to God and His Word in every aspect of your lives: We bring ourselves to our marriages and we can be not more faithful to our spouse than we are to the Lord.
- Make your spiritual bond stronger as you focus on spiritual things together: Worship, church services, and dedication, talking together about the Bible as you let God speak with you through His Word, pray together, sing together, and "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Colossians 3:16). "All the vain things that charm you most" can wait while you work with each other to develop into people God is pleased with (Matthew 6:33).
- Set goals with your mate for your life together that are behavioral, realistic, and achievable: Don't look around for greener pastures. There are no "greener pastures." Develop regular times and rituals when you can revel in each other's company as companions, help-meets, etc.
- Make yourself "vulnerable" to your spouse: Tell your life companion about your fears, hopes, dreams, difficulties, desires, even mistakes. Make time for talking. Make time for activities of interest to both of you and do so with regularity.
Evaluate Your Hearts Before God
We bring ourselves to our marriage. Who we are at home should be no different in character and behavior than who we are in "public." The challenge to maintain a faithful marriage begins with our hearts. Elisha Hoffman said it well in his great hymn: "Is Thy Heart Right With God?"
Have then affections been nailed to the cross?
Dost thou count all things for Jesus but loss?
Hast thou dominion o'er self and o'er sin?
Over all evil without and within?
Are all thy pow'rs under Jesus' control?
Does He each moment abide in thy soul?
Is thy heart right with God?