Friendships & Marriage

Bob and Jane work together in an office. They are both married, in their late 30’s, and have children. One afternoon they decide to go out to lunch together, and after some small talk, Jane begins to share details about her rocky marriage. She tells Bob that her husband is distant and that he never listens to her. Bob lends a sympathetic ear and tries to give her some practical advice to help her better connect with her husband. Bob finds Jane mildly attractive, but he is happily married, so he doesn’t let his mind wander too far down that path.

Weeks pass, and their lunches are now a regular daily routine. Jane has revealed more details about her troubled marriage, including the fact that she has not been intimate with her husband in months. She believes that he no longer finds her desirable, and Bob, being a good friend, assures her that she is beautiful and that the issue is with her husband. Jane is thankful that she has such a good friend in Bob.

As Jane’s marriage continues to deteriorate, she begins texting and calling Bob for emotional support. Bob has not told his wife about his friendship with Jane because he knows she would not be comfortable with him giving another married woman so much emotional support. Eventually, the texts and calls turn into secret meetings outside of work and on weekends. Soon, they are involved in an adulterous relationship that neither intended to have.

When did Bob and Jane enter into an extramarital affair? Before we answer that question, we should first consider two unique sources of wisdom on the subject. Our first source is the Bible:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV

Paul’s teaching is quite simple. When you are tempted to sexual sin, literally run away from the cause or source of that temptation. He acknowledges both the spiritual struggle that humans are tempted to sin and incapable of righteousness apart from the Holy Spirit because we live in a broken world, and that we are biologically driven to sexual acts. Sinning against one’s body, in this case, means letting our hormone-driven passions rule our behavior, rather than our rational mind indwelled by the Spirit.

The second and perhaps less obvious source is the 1989 film “When Harry Met Sally,” written by Nora Efron and directed by Rob Reiner.

There is wisdom in this scene, albeit from a purely secular perspective. In his cynical and unintentional way, Harry acknowledges that men and women were designed by God to be in loving, supportive, and intimate relationships. The biological attraction is a catalyst for the deeper and far more meaningful emotional intimacy that, by design, we all desire. Once we have found such a relationship with a spouse, we should guard our hearts against entering into close emotional proximity with anyone other than our spouse. The initial physical attraction is difficult enough to battle, but when you add layers of emotional intimacy, it is often a recipe for sin.

Even a marriage built on a foundation of faith in Christ and has relatively few problems is not immune to extramarital temptations. This is why the Bible does not tell us to stick around and try to fight temptation, but to flee from it as we do from all “youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22). Trying to resist temptation seems to become especially tricky when it comes to matters of the heart or the lusts of the flesh.

Married men and women should carefully avoid putting themselves in compromising situations when it comes to the opposite sex. If they are seen together in public, it might give the wrong impression. If they are alone on the phone or in person, they will subject themselves to the temptation of an emotional or physical affair. The Bible tells us that everything we do should be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), so the wise thing would be to stick to visiting as couples or “double-dating” with other married couples, as opposed to risking the complications associated with close friendships with the opposite sex. And any relationship that is hidden from one’s spouse is wrong and likely already or bound to result in sinful behavior.

So let’s consider the question again: when did Bob and Jane enter into an extramarital affair? The answer is the moment that Jane shared intimate details about her marital issues, and Bob did not kindly but firmly draw clear boundaries for their friendship. Bob might have said, “Jane, I’m sorry that you’re having difficulty in your marriage, but I’m not comfortable discussing this with you. Perhaps you should seek counsel from another married woman.”

God wants us to live in community, loving, supporting, and caring for others. But the enemy is continually seeking ways to take innocent and God-honoring relationships between men and women and turn them into sin. Guard your heart, run away from temptation, and do not be deceived.

>< Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the LORD. ><

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