by Ray Martin
If you missed our introduction to The Marriage Shield, I encourage you to go back and read or watch it to get an idea of why it’s important to keep a relationship together and what it takes to do so. Today we will focus on the first of three “F’s” in protecting your marriage, fidelity. Infidelity is the surest way to break down a marriage. According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Infidelity is the number one cause of a marriage ending. It increases the likelihood of marital breakdown by 300% or in other words, the probability is quadrupled. So when we talk about keeping a marriage together for life, fidelity is a priority because not being faithful is the biggest threat to a relationship.
What did we promise when we got married?
We hear from the very start of creation that God made man and woman to be lifelong partners where the “two become one flesh”. (Genesis 2:24) Let’s go back to the wedding itself and see what it specifically is that we do or say that supports God’s plan for us and how we can keep it together.
The first step shared in The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman is to “Honor your wedding vows.” It’s not surprising that many people don’t actually remember the vows themselves. These days there is so much focus on the party of the reception that much of the wedding ceremony is quickly forgotten, but to refresh your memory we say:
“I take you to be my lawful (husband/wife) for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
If you go back to our first installment of this series we discussed the “marriage premium” findings Bollman shared that married people are happier, wealthier, and healthier than average and that’s similar to what we promise when we say, “for better or for worse” which speaks to our happiness, “richer and poorer” is obviously tied to wealth, and “in sickness and in health” refers to our physical wellness. We promise in our vows that regardless of our happiness, financial status, or health, that we will be faithful to the union that is joined together during the sacrament of our marriage.
Questions of Consent
In addition to our vows, we also answered three questions of consent:
- Do you come here freely without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
- Will you love and honor each other as husband and wife all the days of your life?
- Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his church?
It’s no surprise that one of these questions has to do with honor. The first is simply asking if there has been any coercion or if you are in a state to give yourself to your spouse. The third question regarding children could be it’s own topic for discussion because fertility and being open to children in various forms is a challenging topic in our culture, but when it comes to honor, being faithful to your vows is pretty obvious. If you go back to the wisdom of Riley Leggett shared in The Choice Wine which was to eat dinner with your family every night and sit with them every Sunday at Church, it’s easy to see how difficult it would be NOT to honor your spouse by spending that intentional time with them and being in a culture with your church community that supports marriage and family.
What Did Jesus Say about Marriage?
Let’s close with a few things found in scripture about fidelity. Jesus preached to a crowd and it’s known today as the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew Chapter 5. During that sermon he said, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Leave it to Christ to raise the bar on the definition of cheating! He also went on to dig his heels in regarding divorce “ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Later on in his ministry, church leaders known as Pharisees questioned him about the Jewish rules on divorce and he responded, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female? and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” And finally back at that sermon on the mount Jesus commented on keeping your word which I think sums up all that really needs to be said on fidelity, it says in Matthew 5:37, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more is from the evil one.”
If protecting your marriage is important to you in order to honor the union that God has joined together then fidelity is the most important thing you can do and why it’s the first “F” of The Marriage Shield.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Paradisus Dei