Let me begin my saying that ever since Ozzie and Harriet were the first couple on TV that America saw in the same bed back in the 1950s, it’s clear, as a country, we’ve been WAY too fascinated about what’s going on in other people’s marriages. Today, celebrity gossip shows and even mainstream media have no qualms with sticking their noses in the sordid business of America’s icons (cf. Tiger Woods). This is all my way of saying, I don’t want to further the issue by digging into someone’s love affairs. Nonetheless, this one’s already out there and probably worth learning a valuable lesson from.
You may recall the very bizarre story that broke last year of the disappearance of South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford. After a few days, Gov. Sanford was “found”. Actually, he never really was lost. He was simply on an adulterous rendezvous to meet his mistress in Argentina. Sanford would later make public comments talking about love as something he fell into with his mistress and how he was hoping to once again fall in love with his wife. If you can’t tell, this is one of my least favorite expressions for loving relationships, as though love is merely an accident or an unstoppable force or some ride that we just go along on and have no say in. I don’t like it because it totally flies in the face of how the Bible defines love — as a choice that involves a willingness for sacrifice, and yes, also often produces emotion. Not surprisingly, Gov. Sanford’s marriage has now ended in divorce.
Last week, Jenny Sanford, his ex-wife added a couple interesting wrinkles to the story. The most fascinating detail of her interview with Barbara Walters was the detail that some 20 years ago at their wedding, Gov. Sanford had insisted that the “promise to be faithful to you” portion of the wedding vows be removed from the ceremony. There’s no catch here. He simply refused to speak the words “I promise to be faithful to you (my future wife)”. Sensing in the interview that this perhaps sounded like something that should have been a major red light in a marriage, Jenny Sanford claimed that she was young and “in love” and had hoped that this love would overcome any doubts that he/she had. The reality was that she was a 27-year-old Georgetown alum and successful investment banker. The “young and stupid” excuse probably doesn’t work here.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am by no means saying that Gov. Sanford’s infidelity was anybody’s fault but his own. No doubt. But come on, Jenny Sanford. While I’m certainly sympathetic to any woman (or man) in this situation and the incredible pain they go through, this comes across as a naïve move to say the least. While I’m not in her shoes and know how easy it is to criticize from a distance, especially in hindsight, but should she not have seen this coming? If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, guess what? Probably a duck. And if, in essence, it says in the wedding vows, “Hey, I’m a duck!”, well, his mistakes, although inexcusable, were perhaps completely avoidable.
This brings me to my point for writing today. A number of my teens at church are reading my blog now. I care about them deeply and pray about them regularly. There’s a couple things I’m sure they get sick of me saying, but that won’t stop me from saying them again and again. One of these redundancies is simply this: when considering marriage, find someone who shares in your love of Christ; as you grow in loving your Lord together, you will grow in your love for one another. God instituted marriage with this in mind. And if there’s any doubt about believers making poor decisions in the spouse department, check out what happens to the wisest man to ever live, Solomon, when he make’s “worldly wise” but not “spiritually wise” decisions in the wife department. Marrying a foreign (and therefore “unbelieving”) wife was a good political move, as the marriage functioned as somewhat of a treaty between nations. However, foreign wives meant foreign gods, and Solomon lost his way in faith as a result. Let me put it a different way: so what if he’s a doctor?! Who cares if she’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever laid eyes on?! If he/she is not a partner in Christ, you have to think long and hard about whether or not this is truly wise.
In speaking with a Fatherly tone to the Corinthians Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?” Yes, Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. He did not hesitate to express Christian love to all mankind. But who were his closest friends? People who loved the true God and loved him as the Son of God. Sinners, yes. But repentant sinners. Marriage is universally one of the most important decisions anyone of us ever makes. Consequently, it’s all the more important that our heads be on straight and our priorities in line.
But wait, what if you’re someone whose past decisions have united you with someone who perhaps doesn’t share that same faith that you have? Take heart. The Bible has some good advice here too. Check out 1 Corinthians 7 and the powerful influence that the Apostle Paul says a godly spouse can have on an unbelieving partner, simply by living in faith. Your spouse may wonder why you still love them despite all their faults. And you can tell them, “Because Jesus first loved me and forgave me for my faults. He inspires me to love you the way I do.”
Let me close by saying that I’m under no false impression that I have all the answers about marriage or that I’m some husband extraordinaire myself. Far from it. At times I get selfish and self-absorbed. I act like a baby. I’ve yet to be accused of being overly romantic (I’ll never wrap my brain around why Pizza Hut is not a viable option on Valentine’s day, particularly when I spring for bread sticks). So I ask God to forgive, trust that he does, and ask him to help me be more of the husband that I know he wants me to be, more like Christ is to his Church. All I’m hoping to do here is share the wisdom of God’s Word on an issue that studies indicate society gets wrong over half the time and growing. Kids, I hope you’re listening 🙂