In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. – I Timothy 4:1-3, NIV.
Will pastors and elders take a stand? Will we speak out about the evils of adultery? Or will we be silent and allow society to fill the void?
Yesterday, an article was posted in the Huffington Post about a TV show called “The Affair.” Chump Lady (who has a potty mouth–my and her own warning) took on the crazy messages this article sends today (click here). The article is by Lily Karlin and is entitled, “Are There Circumstances Where An Affair Is not Immoral? We Asked The Cast Of ‘The Affair.'” I see this article as indicative of the trajectory of our society on the matter of adultery (aka “affairs”) barring a corrective and courageous effort by pastors willing to offer sound teaching in opposition.
Answering the question in the title–i.e. “Do you think there are circumstances where an affair is not immoral?”, Actor Dominic West says:
Yes. I think it’s a conflict between knowing that you can’t really be of any good to anyone unless you look after yourself, unless you are happy. And if you’re not happy then it’s gonna be hard to make your family happy, or to live. And in that way, I think if malice is not intended then I suppose you could say morality doesn’t come into it. It’s sort of, it’s an inevitability. These are good people in this show. They’re good people trying to do their best for the people they love and failing terribly and I think that’s what people do all the time.
Is personal hedonism–i.e. the pursuit of pleasure or happiness–the highest moral compass of our society? This quote suggests this is Mr. West’s moral compass. And it is a very unchristian teaching. However, I suspect many have heard a version of this sort of thinking from the pulpit. Usually, it follows some sort of Ephesians 5 message on being a “good” husband or a “good” wife in order keep the marriage intact.
My concern with teaching husbands and wives to focus on each other’s happiness is that such teaching plays into the entitlement mentality voiced by Mr. West. It teaches Christians that marriage is a function of the happiness equation. The marriage lives or dies based on whether the individual spouse thinks he or she is getting a good happiness deal in it or if he/she thinks a better deal is before them in–say–a coworker making an advance.
Of course, we desire to be happy. And of course, marriage ought to bring us some real joys. However, like parenting, we do not jettison the relationship when faced with the marital equivalent of morning, pee-stained sheets. Mature people realize that happiness is transient–like a fix–and making decisions based on a transient feeling leads to a broad road of destruction (just ask any addict who has hit rock bottom).
I quote the above Bible passage on this post, because I believe we live in a culture that desires all of us to jump on the happiness train. It erodes our relationships as it is egocentric. The cheater becomes god and decides it is his or her happiness that matters more than anyone else’s (especially not the faithful spouse’s happiness or safety, for that matter).
In contrast, I suggest we ask: What makes God happy?
Answer: Holiness. Obedience. Faithfulness.
It’s not what a hedonistic cheater wants to hear.
Maybe some itching ears are best not scratched?