Moral Failure

You’re about to read a blog that comes from an extremely passionate and angry part of who I am.  Without any attempts at sensationalism, I’m going to be quite candid.  If you’re in a marriage relationship, please feel free to comment or even call me on the carpet for what you’re about to read.  I welcome it.

Nearly 3 years ago I had a friend.  He was more than a friend really; he was a partner in ministry.  In fact, he was someone I’d consider my closest friend in student ministry.  We spent tons of time together, we always got along well, we had a similar passion for students, we shared many interests, and we really enjoyed each other’s company. All in all, we were close.  Yet as it turns out, not close enough.

I say that because I clearly wasn’t close enough to see what perhaps he kept hidden from everyone; his inch-by-inch journey into moral failure.  Until one night, seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself sitting face-to-face with my friend, pleading with him not to leave his wife and kids.

He left anyway.

Soon after that, I heard someone say something about the situation that I still to this day disagree with.  It was a statement I’ve heard in other situations as well. You’ve probably heard it too.  It’s a statement that has nearly reached the status of cliche’:  “There but by God’s grace go I.” or more to the point: “That [moral failure] could have happened to any one of us.”  I completely disagreed.

You see, my friend who left his family didn’t slip and fall into a hole.  He climbed in.  Moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, he CHOSE to keep hidden an inappropriate relationship; one that he KNEW would ultimately bring about the end of his marriage.  Do I feel compassion for him?  Absolutely.  But do I also hold him responsible?  You better believe it.

It’s utterly flabbergasting to me how many people in ministry (and those who are not) wrongfully justify immoral behavior.  And in today’s world of hyper-connectedness, we’re literally surrounded by ways that we can step into an inappropriate relationship.  But no matter how many traps are set for us, it is always our choice that leads us into sin.

Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13:  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Simply put, Satan sets a trap but God gives an escape.  According to this verse, you’re NEVER cornered by the enemy’s schemes.  God is always faithful to provide you with a way to get away and free from the destruction Satan desires for your morality and for your marriage.  ALWAYS.

Now, I know better than anyone else just how imperfect a human being and husband I am.  That being said, one of my desires for my life is to be one of those men that–if you know me–you think of as a man who is head-over-heels crazy in love with his wife.  But more than that, a greater desire is for my wife to know that and to feel secure in it.  To that end, there are certain things that I’ve set as principles/boundaries/habits in my marriage (I recommend them to every husband):

1. My wife has full access to my phone & computer; including all text messages, web history, call history, & calendar.  Period.

2. My wife and I have a standing weekly date–just the 2 of us–to talk about anything and everything.  (It’s the highlight of our week!)

3. I swat my wife’s behind every chance I get.  It’s my silent “I love you.”  (This is a multiple times daily occurrence.)

4. I tell my wife not only that I love her, but that I’m IN love with her. And when I say “love” I don’t mean “you give me butterflies” (though she does that too), but that “I’m completely committed to God, to you, to us, to our kids, to this life together. This love is a committed decision. Period.”

5. I consistently confirm that I’m in a spiritual relationship with my wife, not merely a physical and emotional relationship.  I faithfully remember that on our wedding day while I was surrounded by family and friends, I stood before God and made a covenant vow to Him that it is to this woman I am giving my everything; and all for no other reason than to have the joy of her company, the strength of her friendship, and the security of her love.  And God helping me I would provide these things to her as well.  That was my VOW TO GOD.  Oh, that husbands and wives would study carefully and understand the word “vow” before they make one.

No, moral failure such as my friend had (and still lives in) wasn’t a “oops, I slipped and fell” kind of situation.  We CHOOSE to fail.  We CHOOSE to stop loving. We CHOOSE to look where we ought not look.  We CHOOSE to get reconnected with that old “flame”.  We CHOOSE to show interest in that co-worker.  We CHOOSE to send that text message or picture.  We CHOOSE to cross the line of our marriage covenant into moral compromise.  We CHOOSE to put our spouse and children aside while we pursue utterly selfish and lustful desires.  We CHOOSE to get emotionally entangled then physically involved with someone other than the one we’ve made a vow to.  We CHOOSE.

And here’s what I CHOOSE:

I CHOOSE to grow old with the same woman I once was young with.

I CHOOSE to put on display for my kids the fact that their mother has no reason to worry about her husband’s commitment to her.

I CHOOSE to show my wife that I take completely seriously the fact that I am standing in God’s full view and accountability as I live my love for my wife out on a daily basis.

I CHOOSE to be a man of integrity, of passion, of morality, of mind-blowing monogamy, and of Godliness.

And when my vision fades and my eyes close on this life, I will look back and know that I have shown the world that in regards to marriage: “THAT is how it’s done.”

25 thoughts on “Moral Failure

  1. Jerry,

    Amber just pointed me to this post. FANTASTIC AND SPOT ON! You may want to read the My Utmost for His Highest post for Nov 18 (just around the corner) Chambers also speaks to our ability to overcome and it being a matter of choice.

    I will tell you brother, I too have failed in making right choices but redemption is available to all willing to choose to walk in the Light. While your anger sounds to me like righteous anger, I would (in love) challenge you by asking; how are YOU choosing to love this brother–even with the choices he has made. Who will choose to love him enough so that he can truly experience the light and love of Christ so that he will move from a place of walking in darkness, seclusion, and isolation (hiding a wrong relationship) to a place where he can walk in the light of freedom and life. This brother of ours is desperately seeking to fill his void in life. He’s without doubt seeking some John 10:10 life!

    What are we going to do about it? What do we take away from this? How do we love others in our lives so that they don’t fall prey to this as well?

    Brother, I’d love to share more of our (mine and Amber’s) story with you offline. Feel free to drop us a line or give us a call.

    Now, we shall press on, choosing the awesome wives God has blessed us with!

    Matt Henry

    • Matt and Amber,
      Thanks for the comments. Matt, I completely agree with what you’re saying. I by no means am in any kind of “ivory tower” looking down on ANYBODY. I know my depravity all too well to be pious. I want to always be in the place of the beggar “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” while still fully realizing and embrace that HE HAS!!! Bless the Lord! And that grace keeps my heart open so that it can flow through my life into the lives of others. Yes, let’s not be stingy with what we have freely received!
      You’re more than welcome to share with me any of your story you’re comfortable with. I’d love to keep talking.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Great thoughts, Jerry. I’m completely on track with your list and ideas. I do wonder though, if we fail to recognize the saving power of God’s grace in our lives when we face temptation if we will start to face more opposition from the enemy. Satan knows pride better than anyone else. I don’t know if using the phrase There but by God’s grace go I” is a get-out-of-jail-free card for the offender or a phrase by which to re-examine one’s own heart and life… to rely more fully on His grace. I’m sure there’s so much more you could say to process through this… and I’d read it in a heartbeat if you did 🙂 Thanks!

    • Candice, as usual you’re a step ahead! God is already working out a next “follow-up” for me and I’d really like to dive head-first into the reality of grace in the face of failure. Believe me, even as I wrote this blog post, not only did my heart quicken, but I examined my own heart in regards to integrity–I absolutely NEVER want to be a “do as I blog, not as I do” kind of writer!
      Thanks for your kind comments. Means a lot!

  3. Wow Jerry. What can I say. This is one of the very best and authentic blogs I have recently read. I completely agree with your list. My wife and I struggle with weekly dates allowing the excuse that we are so busy. You have inspired me to increase the priority of weekly dates. You have painted a wonderful picture with this post. Thanks Jerry.

  4. The head of the nail is flattened, as you have hit it. This is awesome, Jerry, and reminder to both husbands and wives that love is not just a feeling, but a commitment and and a choice. Well done, my friend. I shall share the link with fellow Facebookians.

  5. Jerry, This blog should be read at every wedding ceremony, during the vows! Great reminders on why we marry in the first place. Now I have to go find my hubby and slap his bottom 🙂 Ha!

  6. Hey, Jer! I just finished reading your blog and then all the comments left by other readers. I think that any question of the legitimacy of what you wrote was answered clearly by them. You simply said something profoundly true in every respect. It is a bigger issue in many more lives than most understand.

    The matter of the “there but for the grace of God go I” quote had an interesting and, I think, relevant interpretation in what you wrote. I’d like to suggest that, according to Galatians 6:1, in particular the words “each one looking to yourselves, so that you too may not be tempted,” we find God’s meaning for “there but for the grace of God” cliche. As we minister to fallen and hurting saints, we realize our own vulnerability and that realization causes us to “send more troops to watch the walls” of our own life. It causes us to want to “choose” God’s way, the way of righteousness.

    Sorry for the ramble there! Thanks for sharing your heart. And as your wonderful wife is our favorite daughter-in-law, I would hasten to add to your comments: “What’s not to love?”


  7. Absolutely and positively true! How proud I am of you and your commitment to your wonderful wife. Men and women, this is the way it’s done!

    Love you!

  8. I’m glad that you titled this “Moral Failure” and not something more specific about marriage. The points you make are really valid for our everyday war again sin…and how we need to take steps to protect ourselves in any given “temptation.” You are right that sin is rarely a one-time “slip,” but rather a final acting upon something the heart has already grown comfortable with! Good teaching, Jerry.

    • I completely agree, Lorri, and was thinking the same thing. This “slip-up” mentality goes for all of our ventures down the road to sin. I love the song, “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns that speaks to this: “It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray…People never crumble in a day – Daddies never crumble in a day – Families never crumble in a day”. Thank you for your outrage, Jerry. I believe a very large part of why our country and world are falling apart is because less and less people are outraged by moral failures. You have another blog follower, brother.

  9. Wow, Jerry! I had a different take on your blog than most! You see, I’m at a place in my lifer where I am surrounded by failing marriages. Many of my friends are making seriously bad choices. Instead of finding comfort in my own relationship, I’ve been fearful of what may come! God led me to your blog today! Because your list described my husband! Your list was where I just found my reality! I’ve been worrying about something that I know will not happen because of other people’s mistakes. Thank you so much for posting this!

  10. Jerry, this is bang-on target. In addition to making and keeping covenant with our wives, I’d recommend man-to-man accountability … whether through a trusted small group, or a 1-on-1 with a Godly friend or pastor. We need to be willing to stand inspection by someone who, in love, won’t give us a pass to play the world’s game. And I endorse suggestion #3 as well! 🙂

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