As the Ashley Madison leak continues playing out in the media, we’re reminded so clearly about the lies of sin. The Ashley Madison Company, a cheating site that is (sadly) very successful, has the following motto: “Life is short. Have an affair.” The lies don’t come much more blatantly than this.
But why are so many falling for it? Why is it that Ashley Madison can boast of over 37 million users — with professing Christians among them? It’s because sin is just that enticing. And just that deceptive. To have sex with someone who is not your spouse can seem so exhilarating, especially if one’s marriage has become dull and boring. Sin clouds our vision, distorts our perception of reality, and if we haven’t fed our souls on specific truths to chase away the lies, one day we may find ourselves buying into the very lie we once thought was unthinkable.
What, then, are some strategies we can use, while we’re in our right minds, to combat such temptations? How can we fight to believe the truth rather than lies, not only today, but next year and twenty years from now?
Think in terms of two categories: guarding your marriage and cultivating the garden of your marriage. Defensive strategies (guarding) fend off the negative and deceptive claims of sin, and offensive strategies (gardening) pursue what is right and true.
Guard Your Marriage
1. Read God’s warnings. Sexual immorality is listed among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19–21, where we’re told that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” If you believe the Ashley Madison lie and pursue it, and you continue to do so without repentance, you will not make it to heaven. Take these warnings of Scripture seriously, and let them spur you on to obedience. (See also Hebrews 13:4.)
2. Be guarded in your relationships with members of the opposite sex. An older and godly mentor of mine shared an insight with me once that I have not forgotten. He commented on the role humor can play in extramarital attachments. Not that we can’t have a good sense of humor. But we should be wary of excessive joking and teasing with members of the opposite sex. It can become dangerous.
3. Be mindful of the influences you allow to shape your thinking. Are you regularly watching movies and shows that glorify fornication and adultery? Are you reading novels that romanticize infidelity? Avoid such influences, and do so relentlessly. In Mark 9:43, Jesus exhorts us in graphic terms, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” I take that to mean, “If the romantic drama or sensual images are causing you to stumble, do what you can to cut them out of your life.”
Garden Your Marriage
1. Cling to God’s promises. Yes, there are scary warnings in the Bible, and also glorious promises. For instance, Jesus promises in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
2. Talk, talk, talk with your spouse. Remember when you and your spouse were first dating? Remember the curiosity and inquisitiveness? Work to keep that alive. I am fascinated again and again by the new things I see and learn about my wife. We’ve been married for fifteen years, but I’m still getting to know her.
3. Date your spouse. To foster those quality conversations, keep dating. Especially with kids, it’s essential to set aside time for undistracted, face-to-face interaction. Find enjoyable activities to do together. Try new experiences. Make new memories. Laugh a lot together.
4. Study and review God’s beautiful design for marriage. I believe the most powerful step Christians can take to strengthen their marriages is to deepen their understanding of what God intends marriage to be, and what he intends marriage to point to. This reality draws us outside of ourselves into something divine, something eternal — because the intimate union of a husband and wife in marriage was created by God to be a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:32).
In light of this truth, and in the midst of a culture that tragically diminishes the sacredness of marriage, Christians should yearn for their marriages to be a compelling gospel parable.
Don’t fall for the Ashley Madison lie, or others like it. Yes, life is short; don’t waste it on short-lived highs that will leave you lower than you began. Take the necessary steps in your own life to affair-proof your marriage, as much as possible, for the glory of Christ.
Let the Ashley Madison leak and lies inspire you to both guard your marriage and cultivate the garden.