Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Word Is Practical!

In the past few weeks, I had the privilege of doing a little mentoring with a relative who is a new believer. One of the things that struck me as I looked anew at the Scripture from the perspective of a babe in Christ is how extremely relevant Scripture is to all aspects of real life, how practical, and how timeless. As I was looking for passages to discuss with him, I came upon this one: First Corinthians 7:2-5 (ESV) "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." It started a time of musing and consideration.

Muse #1: In verse 5, God is commanding both husband and wife to NEVER deprive one another of sexual relations. There is only one exception: mutual agreement for a limited time of prayer that always should end with sexual relations. That's it. No other excuses; no other reasons; no other exceptions. If anyone claims Jesus Christ as their Lord, they are under this commandment and to withhold sexual relations/affections from a spouse is sin.

Muse #2: If God is commanding husbands and wives to never withhold the ultimate form of intimacy from each other, then a strong implication is they also should never withhold less intimate forms of physical contact, either. No excuses; no exceptions.

Muse #3: One of the consequences of extended periods of time without sexual relations with your spouse is sexual temptation by Satan. I'm willing to guess that most of the time that temptation is aimed squarely at the man at least in the form of lust and anger, and possibly even as bad as temptation to adultery. Women: Your willing and happy and regular giving of yourself physically to your husband protects him and protects your marriage! If you love him, if you value your marriage, you will want to protect both.

Muse #4: I know that withdrawal of affection is often used by women as a HUGE club in a marriage. Since men almost always relate love to physical affection, a wife who chooses to wield this club will painfully shred a man's heart and soul, all the way to the core of his being; it is devastating to him in ways a woman can never understand. Most of the time he will respond in withdrawal, which is, in turn, devastating to the wife. And she clubs him again in withholding affection. And he withdraws more. And round and round it goes. Obedience to this command prevents this ugly cycle from ever occurring.

Muse #5: As an implication of #4...since the wielding of the club of withholding affection harms a man to the core of his being, if he has a wife who uses that club, he will, even in the good times, likely not discuss things of depth with her because things of depth often can be contentious...and he knows that she will bring out her club again if things get contentious. So you want conversations and discussions of important issues? Do you want deeper relationship with your husband? You have to ask yourself, "Have I used the club of withholding affection?" If you have, you need to see that for the sin it is, repent before your Lord, ask your husband for forgiveness, and cast that club down, vowing to him and to God to never, ever pick it up again for it is a wicked, evil weapon. Only when the husband knows he is safe...that he trusts you to never again pick up that club...only then will he open up to you, and will you receive the deep, intimate conversations and relationship you so desire.

Muse #6: It's really not comes from Beth Moore at her blog. "And, now, let's just go ahead and get it over with. You knew to expect it. They want more intimacy. You know what I'm talking about. Don't make me say it. And don't act like they're making you do it either. God agrees with them on this one. He's the very one who inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us not to withhold ourselves from one another except for brief seasons of prayer. (Apparently, some of you have been in prayer a LONG TIME.) My beloved Sisters, take it from a woman who's been married a long time and seen a whole lot of marriages go down the drain. PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT TO A DECENT MARRIAGE. With tremendous love and compassion, I will tell you what I told the women in the resulting session. You can say "no" or act miserable and disinterested so many times that you teach your man not to want you. But you can't teach him not to want. (Emphasis added) My man is going to want. That's the way he's wired. SO, I want him to want ME. Want yours to want you, too."

Dear readers, understand that God knows what is best for us in our lives and that His commandments are for our good and for His glory. Do not fall for the wisdom of this world that says to live by our emotions and by our feelings. Trust God to bless you in your obedience to all of His Word, growing you in Christlikeness and holiness. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, respect (and love) your husbands. (Ephesians 5:33) Husbands and wives...NEVER withhold affection. When you love and show affection to your spouse, you honor God and will ultimately build your marriage into a happy, Christ-exulting institution that witnesses to the world Jesus' love for His bride, the Church.

UPDATE: A continuation of thoughts on this subject can be found here and here.


Jess said...

Great article.

The only thing I'd add is that in your muse #3, you have taken that as a problem mostly (or even only) for men.

For me, and probably many other women, it can lead to just as much anger, bad attitudes, and sin issues in my own life to WITHHOLD (or in my case, even just to get too busy and go too long between times... I hope that's not saying too much!), rather than to be together intimately more frequently. Let me tell you- I can tell it in my attitude!

Additionally, I am always aware of the difficulty it causes the marriage relationship when it's been too long. The relationship as a WHOLE begins to suffer- sniping, misunderstandings, and nagging all begin to happen more frequently because we haven't "greased the wheel" so to speak. Things begin to bother us more than they did right after we'd been intimate, and we're less likely to offer grace.

Your article is a good one... interesting to hear about it and think of it through the eyes of a new believer. Thanks for sharing!

Jess @ Making Home

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article. Granted, I agree that a spouse should not withhold affection, but I think that your first muse may not take into account verse 6, in which Paul clearly states that it is a concession and not a command. In fact, it would seem that Paul is actually encouraging the celibate life (verse 8), but also saying that for those Christians who are not strong enough marriage is not a sin (verse 26).

Charley said...

Dear Anonymous,

I did consider verse 6, but at least in the ESV, it is written as the beginning of a separate paragraph and has an alternate translation of "I say this:" (including the colon)...indicating it applies to the verses that follow it rather than those preceding it.

That said, the "Bible Knowledge Commentary" by Walvoord and Zuch says that verse 6 refers to the "abstention from sexual intercourse in marriage as a concession if the preceding stipulations were met. He did not want his advice to be construed as a command." In other words, the "advice" referred to was not the command not to abstain but rather the advice that IF you were to abstain, it should be for the right reason with the right stipulations. I hope that makes sense...but I still prefer the reasoning of my first paragraph here.

And yes, Paul is extolling the advantages of the single life to the Kingdom...PROVIDED a person is gifted for singleness (celebacy). Otherwise, marriage is the expected norm.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response!

Anonymous said...

I am a pastor at a large church. I am a textbook case for what you are talking about here. Until now I never put it together (conciously) that I was withholding information on the things that I am doing from my wife in an attempt to not upset her. I thought that I just didn't want to hear her shoot down my ideas or criticize me. Nothing is ever good enough. I am so tired of trying to play it cool and not complain but days go by... with nothing.
And what can you do to make a person want you? I pray, and plead with God to intercede.
I am so lonely and frustrated. My self-esteem is shot. I wish I could unplug my desires and put them away in a drawer. I stay up late at night until I can't stay awake anymore just so I can go to bed and crash. Otherwise, I lay there wondering if she will touch me. The the snoring kicks in and I get angry or even cry. I wonder why she doesn't want me.

Sorry for the fragmented thoughts, it's just good to get this out.

Charley said...

Dear Anonymous,


Your situation sounds extremely painful. I am by no means an expert nor am I a marriage counselor...I just wrote my musings upon a piece of God's Word that seems quite clear.

But I do have a couple of suggestions.

First (this isn't my idea...I've heard it several times elsewhere): Under no circumstances should you be staying up later than your wife. Go to be when she goes to bed. Then...pray together before going to sleep, no matter how each of you are feeling at the moment. Praise the Lord together. Pray for your marriage. Pray for each other. Thank God for each other. The prayers might be a bit forced at first, but you are uniting your hearts as you address your Lord. Even if she won't pray, you pray out loud for the two of you. Do it EVERY night, without fail.

Second...go to Desiring God Ministries Archived Sermons and listen to Dr. John Piper's series on marriage that ran from Jan 28 through July 1 (with a break for Easter and a few special sermons). In particular focus on the introductory sermons, on the specific ones for the husband and for the wife, and on the ones on divorce/remarriage. If you can get your wife to listen with you, all the better. If not...YOU apply what John says to the husband.

And thirdly...this is the hardest... According to First Timothy 3:4-5, an overseer (elder, pastor) must be able to manage his household well. That's a non-negotiable requirement for the position. From what you have written, it sounds like you would not pass this requirement. For your sake and for the sake of your church, you should humbly go before your elder board and confess what is happening, seek their help, and seek God's restoration to you, your family, and your church. This may require that you step down...temporarily, or even permanently. But you are never wrong in following what God says in His word. He will guide your steps.

May God bless you as you struggle forward.


Anonymous said...

I have just come across your article because a very good friend has led me here. I would like to comment on a couple of things. First, to the Anonymous who shared his story. Thank you for helping me remember that we are not alone in this world. I am a woman who "suffers" in the same ways you do. In my case the roles are obviously reversed. I am the one who wishes more intimacy from my husband. I just wanted the readers to know that women are not always the ones who are urged to withhold. I hope there are more women out there who will be comforted by this information as I have. Thank you all for helping me understand God's words and please pray that I may pass on this information in a manner that may save my marriage and my relationship with my beloved husband.