The Internet Monk posts an essay that is absolutely essential reading for all Christian married men: The Man in the Shadow of Adultery. Please go away now and read it, then come back to read the rest of this post.
One key section is the iMonk’s description of the early-warning signs of adultery. “The behaviors and emotions that precede adultery are easily discerned,” he writes, “and no man can say he doesn’t know what is happening”:
David is looking at Bathsheba, and he is sexually stimulated. He sends messengers to her home. She arrives and he orders those men away. He takes her to his chamber.
At what point is this mysterious? Nathan was right: The rich man took the poor man’s one sheep while awake, sober and rational.
Men, that sexual stirring you feel when engaging a co-worker in intentional conversation? That laughter over the slightly off-color humor? That extra email, voice mail or visit to the cubicle? That unnecessary phone conversation? That intentional proximity to a lunch table? That extra attention to a problem? That intentional “pastoral” call? That willingness to listen? That second glance? That touch on the arm? That nod and smile? Those assurances of friendship? That promise to “pray” and be there?
What in hell are you doing?
The slippery slope described by Michael Spencer is a particular danger for those of us who, how can I put this, have not exactly spent our lives fending women off with a stick. The boost to one’s self-esteem from knowing that your wife is not the only woman who finds you attractive, that your marriage wasn’t a fluke, is what often lies behind the “innocent” behaviour described by Spencer.
Michael has some good advice for turning away from this path before “the later actions and feelings, when the other party is joining in, secrets are shared, plans are made, more lies are told and the whole business takes on a life of its own”, but really the best advice on this that I’ve come across, advice that I hope I’ve taken to heart myself, is from Charles Spurgeon:
With regard to some sins, if thou wouldst avoid them, take one piece of advice – run away from them. Sins of lust especially are never to be fought with, except after Joseph’s way; and you know what Joseph did – he ran away.
A French philosopher said, “Fly, fly, Telemaque; there remains no way of conquest but by flight.” The true soldiers of Christ’s cross will stand foot to foot with any sin in the world except this; but here they turn their backs and fly, and then they become conquerors.
“Flee fornication,” said one of old, and there was wisdom in the counsel; there is no way of overcoming it but by flight. If the temptation attack thee, shut thine eye and stop thy ear, and away, away from it; for thou art only safe when thou art beyond sight and earshot.
“Ye that love the Lord, hate evil;” and endeavour with all your might to resist and overcome it in yourselves.