Paul Levy, writing at Reformation21, an online magazine for Evangelicals in the Reformed tradition, says he knows a couple of pastors who have recently destroyed their ministries and lost their families, apparently through marital infidelity. He offers advice to pastors on how to deal (and how not to deal) with that temptation. I found this article through First Things‘ David Mills, who says it’s good advice for us all; I agree. I especially liked these two parts:

– accountability doesn’t work – If you’re going to sleep with your brother’s wife, you are probably going to lie to your brother about it. I’m not convinced about men meeting up in groups to keep them accountable. There is a need for good friendships between peers, having older men you turn to and couples who share your life. Do you have someone who, if you fell into sin, you could honestly tell and they would rebuke you. If you can’t think of that person you’re in trouble. Are there people who you can share struggles with? Last week a good friend asked me that question and I was so encouraged that he was brave enough to ask me that.

I hope I would have someone who would treat me that way. But I have to wonder: would I treat someone else that way? I really don’t know. I mean, I think I would, but I can’t say for sure. The only instance I can think of in my past is when one spouse left the other apparently out of boredom. I was friends with both of them, and sided personally with the abandoned spouse, but didn’t say anything to the one who left because I told myself one never knows what goes on inside a marriage, and besides, I want to be friends with both. I still don’t know if that was the right thing to do, and ended up drifting from both people, for reasons unrelated to the split. Mind you, I wasn’t in church with either person, but they were friends of mine, and reading this Levy piece this morning makes me feel slightly crummy that I didn’t at least try. Then again, I am absolutely confident it would have done no good.

Anyway, it’s an interesting question to ponder: Would you rebuke anyone in your circle of friends and family for cheating on their spouse? Would you take that sin strongly enough, and love your friend or family member strongly enough, to read them the riot act over it? Or would you keep your opinion to yourself, and just try to maintain a relationship with them no matter what they do? Again, I hope the people who are closest to me would rebuke me if I got into that situation, but I am not confident that I would have the courage to rebuke them, and I’m not sure why.

More Levy:

marriage – Love the wife of your youth. Work hard at your marriage. Don’t be dumb enough to neglect this. As men we should be far more brutal in battering one another when we see we’re neglecting our marriages. Spend time together. Don’t just do things like going to the cinema or watching a dvd which means you don’t communicate. My advice to folk in marriage is go to the pub and go there often. The reason being is that there’s nothing you can do in the pub apart from talk, even playing darts or pool you still have to talk. I realise in America you don’t have pubs, you just have bars with 1000’s of TV’s playing basketball and American football and men and women in suits who all look the same discussing trivia. In the US you’ll just need to find somewhere else to go. Sex within marriage is God’s answer to immorality, and so Christians need to work really hard at having good sex lives. In all cases of marital breakdown that I’ve faced this is the area which was cited first.

This reminds me of an observation I once read — it was, I think, by Marshall McLuhan — that of the people he knew that left the Church, it all began when they stopped praying. Once conversation wanes, or becomes a mere formality, the most intimate communion, of both body and soul, fades — and, if nothing arrests the decline, the relationship dies. As with God, so with one’s spouse, don’t you think?