Infidelity

This article is for married men and women who are ignorant of fidelity.  Now before you say to yourself “That’s not me…I’m not ignorant about fidelity”, be absolutely sure that you know what I’m speaking about before you stop reading any further.

Fidelity defined: faithfulness to a moral obligation, pledge, promise or vow.  It implies complete submission; complete entrusting; and complete allegiance to that which you have committed yourself to.  The key word in this definition is COMPLETE.

Therefore, can you say that you have been completely faithful in the fulfillment of your marital vows to your spouse since the day you said: “I Do”?  If you can say “Yes I have” then you can stop reading, but let me challenge you to consider one more thing before you do.  The word complete implies total; nothing lacking.  Can you say with assuredness that you have never fallen short in your words, thoughts or deeds concerning fidelity with your spouse?

Humm…I thought you couldn’t.  Let’s learn something then about the word fidelity and how we have many times missed the mark in our marital relationships by manifesting infidelity in ways we never thought we were.

By its definition, fidelity is not confined to marriage.  It is a condition that is applicable to any commitment.  Infidelity then would mean there was a breach in faithfulness concerning a promise, pledge, vow or moral obligation to someone that resulted in a violation of the commitment of fidelity between the parties involved.

So, when we use infidelity in the context of marriage, we must replace the misconception that the word implies only having sexual relations outside the covenant of marriage.  There is a much deeper significance we must come to understand.

It is easy for us to focus on issues of adultery, substance abuse, gambling, physical and verbal abuse as behaviors that undergird marital discourse.  These are like “bombs” that explode in our faces.  As a result, they are not hard to identify.  They are extremely devastating to any marital covenant.  But there is another “villain in the camp” that we pay very little attention to.  This villain is subtle and appears innocuous but brings a sense of anesthesia into relationships that cause a gradual state of emotional numbness to develop.  The villain’s name is Mr. Erosion, aka Mr. Drip/Drip/Drip.

You know how he works.  I’m sure you’ve seen him do his thing in nature.  He’s that constant drip of water that keeps striking in the same spot on the earth, and over time, erodes the soil it’s been pounding on to create a crevice that penetrates deep into the ground.  Can you recall seeing his works?

Well, did you know that he likes to abide in marital relationships also?  Instead of water, he uses things like impatience; unkindness; jealousy; envy; boastfulness; pridefulness; haughtiness; selfishness; rudeness; demanding one’s own way; irritability; or holding records of wrongs.

Through these areas, he develops insensitivities between husband and wife.  Each tries to initially co-exist with these insensitivities, but as time goes on in the marriage they find themselves emotionally distancing from each other.   One insensitivity leads into another and the intensity of the insensitivity grows; more distancing occurs until there becomes an emotional “crater” existing between them.  You begin hearing one of them say: “He doesn’t love me like he use to” or “She doesn’t show me respect anymore” or “We don’t seem to connect with each other anymore” or “We are always arguing over the little things”.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have encountered numerous marital cases that were byproducts of these emotional erosions.  The geography of the crater that these couples present in counseling is often times very deep, very jagged and very treacherous.  For the spouse who has fallen into that crater, negotiating the terrain back to the surface isn’t easy because of the extent of emotional numbness that exists.

Do you remember the vows you made to your spouse on your wedding day?   When was the last time you took an inventory of them?     The covenant of marriage is the most basic of relationships established by God.  He expects us to be virtuous in that covenant.  If you don’t remember what you vowed, how can you guard against Mr. Erosion?

What specifically did you vow to your spouse?  Was it to love and cherish and care for?   Was it to honor, obey and respect?  Was it to be there for your spouse in sickness and in health?  Was it to forsake all others?  Fidelity is the cornerstone of any relationship. Does it matter to you that God expects you to be virtuous in his covenant?

Let me give you a homework assignment that will complete your schooling on fidelity.  Meditate on the following scripture passage from the Living Bible, and then write a letter to your spouse relating what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you about your role in the marital covenant.

Ephesians 5: 21-27, 33 (TLB)

{21} Honor Christ by submitting to each other. {22} You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. {23} For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) {24} So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ. {25} And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, {26} to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; {27} so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. {33} So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband – obeying, praising, and honoring him.

Stop the erosion in your marriage.  Renew your wedding vows by restating them to each other.  Do it soon.  Do it this weekend.  Send the kids to a sitter and go for a weekend getaway.  Dress up.  Go to dinner.  Create an atmosphere of intimacy.  Speak life back into your marriage by vowing to each other that you will protect the fidelity of each vow.  Commit to edifying each other every day.  Commit to love and honor and respect your covenant of marriage.  Commit to letting infidelity be a thing of the past.

I pray that you were able to digest this and I pray that God gives you the courage and desire to revive the flame that was ignited between you and your spouse on the day you entered into His blessed covenant of marriage.

A devotional challenge – What Foundation Is Your House Built On?

Read this devotional message and then challenge yourself to follow what it’s asking you to do:

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

24”Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Insights:      Jesus Christ is the one making this statement.  He presents a truth; an insight into an element of belief that is overlooked many times by believers or not fully understood.

That element is “acting on what you believe”

People make decisions every day in accordance with what they believe, and what they believe is a result of their own processes of acceptance or rejection of presented facts.  A person will assume a posture of a belief that will reflect their understanding of those presented facts as being either true or false.

What is significant for us to note is what does the person do with their beliefs? They can either act on them or not.  Just because someone has a belief in something does not mean they will act on that belief.  When they “act on” their belief it is because they put their trust and reliance on it.  When they “do not act on” their belief it is because their trust and reliance are lacking.

We are told in the Gospel of John 1:14 (NIV) that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.  We are also told in Psalm 119:160 (NIV) that all of God’s words are true and eternal.

Therefore, in verse 24 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls wise, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth and act on them out of trust and reliance.

In verse 26 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls foolish, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth but do not act on them because of a lack of trust and reliance.

Jesus is giving us insight into the dynamics of what our faith should be.  The truths of God’s words are what we are to trust and rely on.  If we do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating the trust we have in Him.  If we do not do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating a lack of trust in Him.

Jesus is telling us that only by having trust in Him and doing what He asks us to do will ensure that we will overcome the situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations that come upon us.  We can and will withstand these things because we are anchored on a “rock” foundation that is not moved by any situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation.

On the contrary, if someone has little trust in what Jesus says then they will find themselves not doing what He asks of them and when those situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations come upon them they will suffer great loss.

Application:      Examine yourself over the next thirty days to see how much trust and reliance you are putting in Jesus Christ in the various situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations you encounter.

Do the following:

  1. Write down what situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation you find yourself confronted with.
  2. Write out the options you have concerning your responses to these areas by drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, label it “My Ideas” to solve the situation. On the other side, label it “Jesus’ Methods” to solve the situation.
  3. Use your Bible to locate various scriptures that speak to your situation. Write those scripture references on the side of your paper labeled “Jesus’ methods.”
  4. Compare your side to Jesus’ side and see what discrepancies exist between the way you would handle your situation and the way Jesus would.  If there are discrepancies you will have to ask yourself how much you believe that Jesus’ methods are true and better than yours. The proof of your faith will be evident with your decision to follow Jesus’ methods.
  5. Record how many times you were successful following your methods’ versus how many times you were successful following Jesus’ methods.

Prayer:        Lord, give me the desire to put into practice the truths of your Word concerning all of the situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations I find myself in.  Strengthen my faith through my obedience in fully trusting and relying on your Word so that I can experience your wisdom of standing in you as my “rock” of deliverance.  Change me, Lord.  Change my habits of reliance on myself so that I can bring glory and honor to you in the way I respond to life’s challenges.

It is in Jesus name I pray.   Amen.

Memory and Forgiveness

In this blog, I am going to present an academic view and a practical perspective, on how the capacity of our memory influences our decisions to forgive and forget an offense that someone has committed against us.

Have you ever thought about how the memories you have concerning an offense influence the decisions you make about forgiving or forgetting?

Ever consider what power your memory exerts over your behaviors, emotions, and thoughts?

If the truth is told, without memory there would be no need to worry about forgiveness, because you would not be able to remember that an offense ever occurred.

What do I mean by that statement?

Well, before I can give insight into the meaning, I must first lay down this foundation:

All memory does is to recall all of our experiences; specifically our past experiences.

MEMORY recalls THE HISTORY OF OUR LIVES

Now here’s the academic view:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary classifies the word memory as a noun and uses a definition that fits our context:  It says that:

“Memory is the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms.”

It goes on to say that:

“Memory is the store of things learned and retained from an organism’s activity or experience as evidenced by modification, structure, or behavior or by recall and recognition.”

As this definition implies, memory is the foundation for all learning, conditioning, habits, behaviors, and thoughts.

Without the capacity of memory, you would only know how to live for the moment, and that moment would be a new moment, every moment.

For when that moment was over, without a memory, you would not be able to recall it.  It would be gone, non-existent; like it never happened.

But through the process or power of memory, you are able to recall what happened at that moment that had just passed.

You see, memory is needed to bring back to mind those things of your yesterday.

Memory is always past tense, and it is a very critical component of what your present and future tenses can be.

Now consider this interesting insight about “man.”

His experiences of yesterday are the things that influence his here and now; his today.

His yesterday experiences give meaning to his present, here and now, and consequently, help him decide what he has to do in his current situation or in the future.

Therefore “man,” in addition to always learning new things from moment to moment is always in a state of reacting to things or modifying things by recalling past experiences of those things every second of every day of his life.

His world is one of not just continual enlightenment as he relates to those things that are in his environment, or with people whom he interacts, it is a world dominated by present and future decisions that are influenced by past experiences.

The acronym:

“(M)y (E)nlightened (M)ind (O)nly (R)emembers (Y)esterday” …

Is a phrase the Lord gave to me to use for the word “memory.”

Therefore, with regard to forgiveness; when someone offends me, it immediately becomes a historical event one second after it happens.

The incident is then immediately stored in the mind of both the offender and the offended.

It is locked away with all of the particulars that were connected to it; (such as words, emotions, actions, thoughts, sights, smells, sounds, etc.) – all locked away.  It is now historical.

It is something that happened in the past.  It can never be physically relived, only mentally remembered.   It is something that has happened – not something that is happening.

So, thus far, we have successfully laid the foundation that gives meaning to our opening statement which was: If the truth is told, without memory there would be no need to worry about forgiveness because you would not be able to remember that an offense ever occurred.

Therefore, one must rely on the recollection of this historical data in order to bring resolve to the issue of offense.  Without this information, without this memory of the offense, no knowledge of an offense would ever exist.

Think for a moment about this precious capacity of memory we have.  What a wonderful capacity the Lord has given to us.

It is something we use to remind us of where we have been, what we have done, what we have said, what we have learned;

It is something we use to remind us of where we have failed, where we have succeeded, where we have error, where we have fault;

It is something we use to remind us of where we are strong, where we are weak, where we are vulnerable, what we like and what we don’t like.

I believe with the utmost assurance that the capacity of memory is one of the many vital capacities the Lord has equipped us with for growth and maturation not only as human beings but as Christians.

Let us take a look at another academic view of how the Lord tells us to use this capacity of memory in the area of forgiving and forgetting.

First, let us build another foundation by looking at the definitions of both words – Forgive and Forget

The word “Forgive” is a verb (an action word) that has three definitions which say:

  1. To cease to feel resentment against (an offender): pardon.
  2. To give up resentment of or claim to requital.
  3. To send forth, send away, let go from

The implication of these definitions is that a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision is made to cease to feel resentment; to give up resentment and to let go from oneself.

The word “forget” is also a verb (an action word). BUT we must use its proper form if we are to understand how God uses it in context with the verb forgive.  That verb form would be the intransitive form of the verb which says:

To cease remembering or noticing.  The implication is that a volitional, purposeful, and intentional choice has been made not to remember or bring to mind the offense.

Now, let us put all of this together.

Memory influences our decisions to grant forgiveness or to forget an offense because it precisely brings to mind the entire travesty of the offense, which could and many times does hinder any of our efforts to resolve and/or reconcile our relationship with the one who has offended us.

As the offender, our memories are of all the precipitating circumstances that brought us to the point of committing the offense.

As an offender, our memories could be of that desire we had for selfish gain at the expense of another; or that desire we had to hurt, harm, or destroy the person because of prideful motivations we had, or maybe our memories are cloudy and confused from an unwitting innocence.

As the offended, our memories are of all the emotional hurt, physical hurt, financial loss, personal violation, betrayal, injustice, anger, disappointment, which we suffered.

Memory recalls these historical facts – brings them to mind, BUT it stops there.

Memory only reminds us of those facts.  Memory does not make us act on those historical facts; something else does.

So that brings us to the crossroad.  Regardless of whatever perspective we come from (offender or offended), the question is what decisions are we to make concerning the historical facts of the offense, what are we to do?

Now the practical perspective is this:

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we are to simply be obedient to what Jesus has commanded us to do in the area of forgiving and forgetting an offense.

Even though many will say that there has to be more to it than that, in reality, for the born-again believer, it is the only practical answer.

And just how is that played out?

As the one who was offended – you must make a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision to choose to forgive and let go from yourself the feelings of resentment toward the offender (when you have had your heart healed and restored by the Lord), and to also volitionally, purposefully, and intentionally choose to biblically forget by not bringing the offense to mind.

As the one who did the offense – you must make a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision to go and be reconciled to the person you have offended by confessing your guilt and asking for their forgiveness.

Understand that reconciliation can only come from the offended, not the offender.

The syntax is: “go and be reconciled”, notgo and reconcile” – Matthew 5:23.

You might be saying right now: That is not the answer.  Elder, you have no clue.

Well, you are 100% correct. As a human being, I have no clue, BUT my creator and Lord does. He has the just, righteous, and holy answer.

To the offended:   He tells you in Matthew 6:14-15 –

“that if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

To the one who offended someone:   He tells you in Matthew 5:23-24 –

“that if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there beside the altar.  Go and be reconciled to that person.  Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

You see after all the emotions have died down and you have returned to your ability to think rational thoughts, then as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you are left with only one thing to do and that is to obey what Jesus has commanded.

You are to forgive and forget offenses committed against you as the Lord has commanded you, even though the knowledge of the historical facts are locked away in the memory banks of your mind.

And those facts will always be there because they are facts that actually occurred. But it should be your heart’s desire to do what God has commanded if you are born-again.

Scripture says:

“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.  Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:30-32)

And

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”   (Colossians 3:13)

Therefore “Memory”:

  1. Stores all of our past experiences.
  2. Reminds us of those experiences.
  3. Reminds us also of what the Lord has commanded us to do, especially in the area of forgiving and forgetting an offense.
  4. Reminds us also of the love, grace, and mercy of our Father in heaven and what He has done for us in forgiving our sins and reconciling us back to Himself.

So now you can see what role memory plays in our decision making.

MEMORY ONLY ACTS AS A REMINDER OF WHAT HAPPENED 

The heart is what motivates us to do in response to our memory.  And our heart’s desire should always be to honor the Lord and bring glory to His precious name by following His command to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

So, take some time and marinate on this instructional message and I pray that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Amen