Dr. Russell Moore explains at FamilyLife the key to avoiding infidelity in marriage*:
It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. Russell Moore says that when it comes to maintaining marital fidelity, a wife’s best defense may well be to move into her husband’s life with hard questions and a loving presence to open up the dialogue about marital fidelity – before the affair happens.
Note that in the FamilyLife summary above, the temptation to sin only affects husbands. In the beginning of the segment Moore does briefly reference premarital counseling where he has both the husband and wife write out how they would be tempted to cheat, but for the rest of the program the presumption is that only husbands are tempted by sexual sin.
Dr. Moore describes a situation where his wife’s radar went up:
Early on, in ministry—serving a church—we had a young woman, who would come up after every sermon. She would say, “Ah, Brother Moore—that was just amazing! I’ve got some questions to ask you, from Habakkuk.” Then, she would stand and ask questions. Maria said to me, in the car, on the way home, “She’s after you!” I said, “You’re crazy! You are crazy! I look like a cricket. [Laughter] She’s not after me. Secondly, she’s just this godly, truth-seeking woman. She’s just intensely passionate about Habakkuk.” [Laughter] Maria said: “Well, I don’t know about all that, but I know women. I know how women act, and she is after you.” She was not threatened by that. She didn’t nag or berate me about that. She just made sure that, every time that woman approached, she was right there with me.
Moore can’t see sin/temptation in women, so he couldn’t see it in the woman who was moving in on him. His takeaway from this story is not to recognize his own blind spot, but to declare his wife to be a Christian version of Xena, Warrior Princess:
That woman came and sat down one time—next to me, on the pew, before service started—to ask me a Habakkuk question. Next thing I know, here comes Maria. She just squeezes herself right down between us, reaches up and kisses me on the cheek, and just starts rubbing my back, while I explain the eschatology of Habakkuk. [Clapping] What that is—is a warrior princess for Christ—in her marriage.
His wife’s mate guarding strikes me as wise, but Christ’s words in Mat 5:47 seem to apply:
Do not even pagans do that?
Moore then reinforces the concept that only husbands are tempted to cheat:
If you wives are going to work, with your husbands, toward godliness, you cannot be threatened by the idea that your husband is going to feel some attraction for some other woman. If your husband tells you that he has never had any attraction to anybody else but you, he is a liar! Don’t be threatened, wives, when your husband sits down and says to you: “I believe that I may be vulnerable. I find myself noticing So-and-so when she walks in the room,” or, “I find myself just spiritually dry, and joyless, and bored right now. I’m afraid that’s an inroad to Satan. Help me to crucify the flesh.” That’s a blessing from God!
Next Moore changes the subject to fornication. He points out the problem with the euphemism premarital sex, because it creates a sense of marriage retroactively covering fornication:
Paul says, “If you cannot handle yourself and keep yourself under control, marry. It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Why is that the case? It is not simply because fornication will do bad things to you later on—although, it will. It is because God has revealed, “Fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Now, one of the problems that we have in our church, and possibly even in your marriage, is that we do not really believe that. We do not really see the spiritual war that is going on, at this point, because we assume: “It’s premarital sex. So, once the marriage takes place, the issue is now resolved.”
The term premarital sex is deceptive not just because it hides the sin of a couple fornicating with each other before marriage, but because it also expands to cover all of the other acts of fornication the two members of the couple engaged in with a parade of other people. While Moore can see the smaller problem, he doesn’t seem to be able to see the larger one.
Moore ironically then uses the same frame of mind of premarital-sex/retroactive-marriage to frame fornication as strictly a sin by husbands, who prey on their future wives (emphasis mine):
Some of you—in your marriages, right now—are experiencing deadness, and mistrust, and conflict because you, husbands, led that woman into fornication. You have never gotten to the point of repentance before God for evil. Every act of hiddenness that you took to manage your own image and to cover over your sin, you will be able to do, just as easily, again, with some other woman. “She’s the love of my life!” You’ll feel that way about somebody else, one day. “We were just so carried away!” You’ll be carried away again, one day.
Until you get to the point—specifically, men—where you, as a former fornicator, get on your knees with your wife and say: “I am guilty of not protecting you, of not exercising godly headship over you, of not loving you as Christ loved the Church. I repent before God, and I repent to you,” you will never understand what the Scripture is talking about when it says: “You were washed. You were freed.” The problem is—we assume that, because the issue is in the past, that the issue is over; but as Alice von Hildebrand put it so poignantly one time, “Nothing drives two people further apart than sinning together.”
Your wife, men, may not trust you right now because she knows her parents couldn’t trust you then. Until that is dealt with—with the kind of heart that cries out, “Lord, have mercy, and free me, and wash me,” you will never find the kind of spiritual power and freedom in your marriage that you so desperately need.
Note that he claims the husband’s sin is not exercising godly headship over a woman he wasn’t married to. Yet he wasn’t her head, because she hadn’t (yet) chosen him to be her head! She only chose him as a fornication partner. Once he was her head, it wasn’t fornication anymore. Moreover, for the vast majority of the couples listening, the (now) husband wasn’t the first, or even second, and probably not even the third man she fornicated with before marriage. Did all of those other men also have headship over her? Is the last man in the chain that she fornicated with, the man who married her, more guilty than the other men because he married her instead of moving on? If the husband hadn’t later married her, would his fornication with her really be less sinful?
Note that the problem is not that Moore is calling men to repent of their sexual sins, nor that he is warning them of the temptations they face. This is loving. The problem is that he isn’t showing this same love to the women in the audience, and is in fact helping them deceive themselves into denying their sins and their temptations. Even worse, he is withholding this love from the more easily deceived spouse, at a time when the culture is teaching her that sin and rebellion are virtues.
*Broadcast February 12, 2013. Also published here.