Bill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York City, and his wife, Chirlane McCray, recently told the New York Times that they are separating after nearly thirty years of marriage. However, they are not planning to divorce and will continue to share the townhouse where they raised their two children.
Instead, they are “opening” their marriage to date other people, choosing what is now known as “consensual non-monogamy.”
Marriage therapists say they have seen a definite rise in such arrangements. This is one version of “polyamory,” a growing movement to advocate for polygamy, “throuples,” and other forms of non-monogamous romantic relationships. Towns and municipalities are now legalizing such partnerships, fulfilling the warning by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (much ridiculed at the time) that the 2015 Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage would open the door to polygamy as well.
“Let the marriage bed be undefiled”
We are living in a day when marriage is being redefined to include nearly any imaginable sexual relationship. However, God’s word could not be more clear: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
Are we witnessing his judgment in our day?
Our Father deals with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must. Consequently, his judgment takes two forms: permissive and punitive.
The first phase of his response to sin is typically to permit us the consequences of our rebellion against his word and will. For example, when people “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Romans 1:21), “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (v. 24) with disastrous consequences that read like today’s news (vv. 26–31).
If permitting the consequences of our sins will not lead us to repentance, God must shift to punitive judgment in which he responds directly to our rebellion and unrighteousness. We see this in the Exodus, for example, and in his judgments described in Revelation.
“The single most common cause of marital dissolution”
It is clear that our nation is in at least the first phase of divine judgment against sexual immorality.
In 2001, 91 percent of Americans considered it immoral for married people to have sexual relations with someone other than their spouse, the very arrangement Bill de Blasio and his wife are announcing. Today, roughly 60 percent say the same; the more educated the respondent, the greater their acceptance of adultery.
What are the consequences of such sin? Research shows that “infidelity is reliably associated with poorer mental health particularly depression/anxiety and PTSD, and relationship dissolution/divorce which has been shown to adversely impact offspring.”
In fact, “across 160 societies, infidelity is the single most common cause of marital dissolution.”
Four practical responses
How can you and I avoid this trap?
First, define sexual morality as God does.
Jesus forbade lust (Matthew 5:28) because he knew it to be the root of all other sexual sins. This includes pornography, sexual fantasy, “emotional affairs,” and all other ungodly thoughts and desires. God’s standard is clear: sexual relations are reserved for a lifelong marriage covenant between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 7:2).
Second, ask God’s Spirit to help you choose personal godliness (Ephesians 5:18).
You can “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) when you use temptation to seek the help of God’s indwelling Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). “All noble things are difficult” (Oswald Chambers), but “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35).
Third, seek forgiveness if you fail.
If you confess your sins, God is “faithful and just” to forgive them and to cleanse you from “all” unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This does not mean that we can simply sin and confess, then sin and confess. Even though God forgives all we confess, we must do so with a repentant heart that seeks not to sin again. And even then, the consequences of our sins will often remain.
Fourth, call others to godliness in a spirit of humility.
Our broken culture deserves to know the reality of God’s permissive and punitive judgment against our sins, but “speaking the truth in love” must be our mantra (Ephesians 4:15). St. Augustine observed: “Men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.” Don’t let this be true of you.
“The high soul climbs the high way”
It was my great honor last Saturday to deliver the message at the memorial service for Dr. Russell Dilday, longtime president of Southwestern Seminary and my mentor, hero, and spiritual father. Dr. Dilday’s most famous sermon and most prophetic book were both titled “Higher Ground.” In them, he called us to a civility that transcends rancor and a witness that transforms culture.
His sermon was prompted in part by a John Oxenham poem he recites in his book:
To every man there openeth a way and ways, and a way. The high soul climbs the high way; The low soul gropes the low, And, in between, on the misty flats, the rest drift to and fro. And every man decideth the way his soul shall go.
Which way will you choose today?