“Let Marriage Be Honorable Among All”
“Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement.”—HEBREWS 13:4.
1. What have many people learned about successful marriage?
MILLIONS of people, even in this age of easy divorce, enjoy enduring marriages. They have found a formula for success, despite differences of personality and background. Such marriages are found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. In most cases these couples will admit that they have had their ups and downs, even some causes for complaint against each other. Yet, they have learned to ride through minor storms and keep their ship of marriage on course. What are some of the factors that have kept them going?—Colossians 3:13.
2. (a) What are some positive factors that sustain a marriage? (b) What are some factors that can subvert a marriage? (See box on page 14.)
2 Comments made by some whose Christian marriages have been happy and lasting are quite revealing. One husband of 16 years said: “Any time a problem has come up, we’ve really made an effort to listen to each other’s point of view.” This highlights one of the solidifying factors in many marriages—open, frank communication. A wife, married for 31 years, stated: “Holding hands and doing fun things to keep the romance between us has always been a priority.” And that is an additional aspect of communication. Another couple, married for nearly 40 years, emphasized the importance of retaining a sense of humor, of being able to laugh at themselves and each other. They also said that it helped to be able to see the best and the worst in each other and yet show loyal love. The husband mentioned willingness to acknowledge mistakes and then apologize. Where there is a yielding spirit, the marriage will bend to adjust rather than snap.—Philippians 2:1-4; 4:5, Kingdom Interlinear.
A Changing Climate
3, 4. What changes in attitude have taken place regarding fidelity in marriage? Can you give examples?
3 Over the last few decades, all over the world, perceptions have changed with regard to fidelity in marriage. Some married people believe that there is nothing wrong with an affair, a modern euphemism for adultery, especially if the other partner knows of and accepts it.
4 One Christian overseer commented about the situation: “The world has virtually abandoned any serious attempt to live by a moral code. Chaste conduct has come to be viewed as old-fashioned.” Prominent political, sports, and entertainment personalities openly violate the Bible’s standards of moral conduct, and such people continue to be lionized. There is virtually no stigma attached to any type of moral wrongdoing or perversion. Chastity and integrity have seldom been valued in so-called high society. Then, on the principle of ‘what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,’ the masses follow that example and condone what God condemns. It is as Paul expressed it: “Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.”—Ephesians 4:19; Proverbs 17:15; Romans 1:24-28; 1 Corinthians 5:11.
5. (a) What is God’s position on adultery? (b) What is covered by the Bible’s use of the word “fornication”?
5 God’s standards have not changed. It is his position that cohabiting without the benefit of marriage is living in fornication. Infidelity in marriage is still adultery.* The apostle Paul stated clearly: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.”—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
6. What encouragement can we find in Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11?
6 An encouraging point in that text is Paul’s expression, “Yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean.” Yes, many who in the past ran in the world’s loose “low sink of debauchery” have come to their senses, accepted Christ and his sacrifice, and been washed clean. They have chosen to please God by leading moral lives and are happier as a result.—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
7. What conflict exists in the understanding of “immorality,” and what is the Bible’s viewpoint?
7 On the other hand, the modern world’s definition of immorality is so diluted that it does not match God’s view. A dictionary defines “immoral” as “contrary to established morality.” Today’s “established morality,” which condones premarital and extramarital sex as well as homosexuality, is what the Bible condemns as immorality. Yes, from the Biblical viewpoint, immorality is gross infringement of God’s moral code.—Exodus 20:14, 17; 1 Corinthians 6:18.
Christian Congregation Affected
8. How can immorality affect those in the Christian congregation?
8 Immorality today is so prevalent that it can even exert pressure on those in the Christian congregation. It can influence them through all-pervasive, degrading TV programs, videos, and pornographic reading material. Although only a small proportion of Christians are affected, it has to be recognized that the majority of cases of disfellowshipping from the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses for unrepentant conduct unbecoming a Christian are related to some form of sexual immorality. On the positive side, a large proportion of those disfellowshipped eventually recognize their errors, resume a clean way of life, and in time are reinstated in the congregation.—Compare Luke 15:11-32.
9. How does Satan manipulate the unwary?
9 There is no question that Satan is going about like a roaring lion, ready to devour the unwary. His machinations, or “crafty acts,” are ensnaring unwary Christians every year. The ever-present spirit of his world is selfish, hedonistic, and wanton. It panders to the flesh. It rejects self-control.—Ephesians 2:1, 2; 6:11, 12, footnote; 1 Peter 5:8.
10. Who are subject to temptation, and why?
10 Who in the congregation can be exposed to the temptations of immorality? Most Christians, whether they be elders in a local congregation, traveling overseers, Bethelites, pioneers preaching many hours each month, busy parents raising a family, or young people facing peer pressure. Fleshly temptation is common to all. Sexual chemistry can be triggered when it is least expected. Thus Paul could write: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men [and women].” It is regrettable, but some Christians in positions of responsibility have succumbed to this lure of immorality.—1 Corinthians 10:12, 13.
Drawn Out and Enticed
11-13. What are some situations that have led to immorality?
11 What are the temptations and situations that have led some to the foolish course of adultery and fornication? They are many and complex and may vary from one country or culture to another. However, there are certain basic situations that surface in many countries. For example, it is reported that some have organized parties where alcoholic drinks were freely available. Others have loved worldly suggestive music and provocative dancing. In some areas of Africa, there are wealthy men—unbelievers—who have concubines; some women have been tempted to seek economic security in such a situation even though it involves immorality. In other areas Christian husbands have left their families to earn a living in the mines or elsewhere. Then their loyalty and fidelity are tested to a degree or in ways that would not have been experienced back home.
12 In developed countries some have fallen into Satan’s trap by often being with a member of the opposite sex and without a third person present—such as regularly being in the confined intimacy of a car for driving lessons.* Elders doing shepherding calls also need to exercise caution so as not to be alone with a sister when counseling her. Conversations can become emotionally charged and result in an embarrassing situation for both parties.—Compare Mark 6:7; Acts 15:40.
13 The aforementioned circumstances have led some Christians to lower their guard and commit immoral acts. Even as happened in the first century, they have allowed themselves to be ‘tried and drawn out by their own fleshly desires,’ which has led to sin.—James 1:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 5:1; Galatians 5:19-21.
14. Why is selfishness an underlying factor in cases of adultery?
14 A careful consideration of disfellowshippings shows that immoral acts have certain underlying factors in common. In such cases there is some form of selfishness. Why do we say that? Because in cases of adultery, some innocent person or persons are going to get hurt. It may be the legal spouse. It will certainly be the children, if there are any, for if adultery results in divorce, the children, who desire the security of a united family, may pay the highest price. The adulterer is primarily thinking of his or her own pleasure and advantage. That is selfishness.—Philippians 2:1-4.
15. What may have been some causes leading to adultery?
15 Usually adultery is not a sudden act of weakness. There has been a gradual, even imperceptible, deterioration in the marriage itself. Perhaps communication has become routine or sterile. There may have been little mutual encouragement. Each may have taken the other for granted. The spouses may not have been satisfying each other sexually for some time. Certainly when adultery occurs, there has also been a diminishing relationship with God. Jehovah is no longer clearly perceived as a living God who is conscious of all our thoughts and deeds. It may even be that in the mind of the adulterer, “God” becomes a mere word, an abstract entity who is not part of daily life. Then it becomes easier to sin against God.—Psalm 51:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Hebrews 4:13; 11:27.
The Key to Resistance
16. How can a Christian resist the temptation to be unfaithful?
16 If any Christian should find himself or herself being tempted into the pathway of unfaithfulness, what factors should be taken into account? First of all, thought should be given to the meaning of Christian love, solidly based on Bible principles. Never should physical or erotic love be allowed to take over and precipitate a fall into selfishness, bringing suffering to others. Rather, the situation should be regarded from Jehovah’s viewpoint. It should be viewed in the greater context of the congregation and the dishonor that bad conduct would bring on it and on Jehovah’s name. (Psalm 101:3) Disaster may be avoided by getting the mind of Christ on the matter and then acting accordingly. Remember, unselfish Christlike love never fails.—Proverbs 6:32, 33; Matthew 22:37-40; 1 Corinthians 13:5, 8.
17. What upbuilding examples of faithfulness do we have?
17 A key to resistance is to fortify one’s faith and vision of the hope ahead. This means keeping uppermost in the heart outstanding examples of integrity that faithful men and women of old, and Jesus himself, have left. Paul wrote: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:1-3) Rather than scuttle the ship of marriage, the wise person will think of ways to repair any damage in order to recover it, thus avoiding the pitfall of treachery and duplicity.—Job 24:15.
18. (a) Why is treachery not too strong a word to describe adultery? (b) How does God view the paying of vows?
18 Is treachery, which is treason, too strong a word regarding immorality? Treason is the betrayal of a trust or a confidence. Surely the marriage vow involves trust and a promise to love and cherish, through thick and thin, through good times and bad. It involves something that many consider outdated for the times in which we live—one’s word of honor expressed in the marriage vow. To betray that trust is to commit a form of treason against one’s spouse. God’s view of vows is clearly stated in the Bible: “Whenever you vow a vow to God, do not hesitate to pay it, for there is no delight in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay.”—Ecclesiastes 5:4.
19. In contrast with what does Satan rejoice when a Witness fails?
19 Let there be no doubt about it. Just as there is great rejoicing in heaven over the salvation of one sinner, so there is great rejoicing on earth among Satan’s hordes, visible and invisible, when one of Jehovah’s Witnesses fails to keep his or her integrity.—Luke 15:7; Revelation 12:12.
Temptations Common to All
20. How can we resist temptation? (2 Peter 2:9, 10)
20 Is immorality inevitable in some cases? Are the flesh and Satan so strong that Christians cannot resist and keep their integrity? Paul gives encouragement in these words: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” In today’s world we may not avoid temptation altogether, but by turning to God in prayer, we can certainly endure and overcome any temptation.—1 Corinthians 10:13.
21. What questions will be answered in our next study?
21 What does God offer us to help us to endure temptations and come out victorious? What do we individually need in order to protect our marriages, our families, as well as the reputation of Jehovah’s name and that of the congregation? Our next article will treat those questions.
“‘Fornication’ in the broad sense, and as used at Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, evidently refers to a broad range of unlawful or illicit sex relations outside marriage. Porneia [the Greek word used in those texts] involves the grossly immoral use of the genital organ(s) of at least one human (whether in a natural or a perverted way); also, there must have been another party to the immorality—a human of either sex, or a beast.” (The Watchtower, March 15, 1983, page 30) Adultery: “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful husband or wife.”—The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
Obviously, there would be proper occasions when a brother would provide transport for a sister, and such situations should not be misconstrued.
Do You Remember?
□ What are some factors that help to strengthen a marriage?
□ Why should we shun the world’s view of morality?
□ What are some temptations and situations that can lead to immorality?
□ What is the principal key to resisting sin?
□ How does God help us in times of temptation?
[Box on page 14]
COMMON FACTORS IN LASTING MARRIAGES
□ Firm adherence to Bible principles
□ Both mates have a strong relationship with Jehovah
□ Husband respects his wife, her feelings and her opinions
□ Good communication on a daily basis
□ Seek to please each other
□ A sense of humor; able to laugh at oneself
□ Freely admit faults; freely forgive
□ Keep the romance alive
□ Be united in the raising and disciplining of children
□ Regularly uniting in prayer to Jehovah
NEGATIVE FACTORS THAT UNDERMINE MARRIAGE
□ Selfishness and obstinacy
□ Failing to do things together
□ Poor communication
□ Lack of adequate consultation between the spouses
□ Poor money management
□ Differences of criteria in dealing with children and/or stepchildren
□ Husband working late or neglecting family for other duties
□ Failure to care for family’s spiritual needs
[Picture on page 15]
Keeping marriage honorable brings lasting happiness