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For all of the commotion and bluster from conservatives and Christians about the Defense of Marriage Act, many people seem to overlook the fact that true Biblical marriage is threatened less by outside forces, such as liberals or homosexuals, than by the deterioration within the church over the last half-century.
Infidelity seems to be as common among the sacred as it is the secular. Divorce statistics within the church mirror those outside the church. Sexual scandals rock the highest ranks of religious leadership. The holy institution of marriage wages war against outside enemies while crumbling from within.
In order to restore the power of lifelong, monogamous partnerships, we must return to some of the basic building blocks of a successful marriage relationship. Even though some couples seem to be exceptions to the rules, there are rules and they do matter if we understand their importance as it relates to self-control.
First, men must understand that we will never fully govern our sexual appetites without help from a higher power. Even the greatest men in the Bible, from strongman Sampson to King David, fell under the power of sexual enticement. Our natural appetites require supernatural enabling to control. A man who proposes to walk through life under his own power will most likely stumble. We must first admit our weakness, then seek counsel, friendships, and faith so that we may gain strength.
Second, women must understand that sex is not love. A man's sexual desire does not indicate love or devotion. In fact, it often serves as a warning sign of weakness. An uncontrolled sexual appetite will not suddenly find satisfaction in the structure of holy matrimony. In fact, it often finds the "marriage bonds" to be just that to some -- bondage. It is a challenge to learn self-control and to practice discipline and self-denial. While most women want to present themselves to the man she loves, saying "no" to some of the things we really desire helps to build the strength and character in both parties essential to long-term relationships.
Many people, whether it's young couples engaged in their first serious relationship or older couples experimenting with a second or third marriage, have bought into the idea that living together or engaging sexually helps provide a sound test of compatibility. There is no evidence, especially within the Scriptures or religious tradition, to support this notion. God did not provide the blueprint for successful marriage in order to make us miserable; He laid down guidelines because He knows the secrets to lasting, meaningful relationships and cares enough about us to tell us. Premarital sex is not a part of it. The fruit of patience and virtue is sweet, but arrangement for convenience or unrestrained passion ends in pain. True love does not seek its own way at the expense of others.
Finally, couples that do commit to marriage must comprehend that marriage does not blind us to beauty. A man or a woman, regardless of their age or marital status, will often notice beauty and may be physically attracted to other people. Temptation can tug at the heart of anyone, anywhere. It is through good counsel, wise decisions and supernatural strength that we can endure such tests and develop stronger, happier relationships.
Marriage is a religious and social institution that must be defended. But it will not be through legislation or any other political solution. It will only succeed socially when it is restored in the lives of successful couples through the empowerment and wisdom of the One who created it in the first place. Self-denial and discipline, along with God's wisdom, develop the strength of character necessary to face the challenges that will surely test all committed relationships. Supernatural marriage built on love needs no natural defense because nothing on this earth can prevail against it.