HOLD THE STANDARD HIGH
I Corinthians 6:19-20
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

I Corinthians 6:19-20 (Holman) “Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

These verses help explain why Christianity has by far the highest moral ethic of any world religion. We believe our bodies are holy. They belong to God.

Our standard is exalted, advocating not only abstinence outside marriage, but also a pure mind, as Jesus commanded in His Sermon on the Mount, “Everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

God intended for intimacy to be totally thrilling and fulfilling. This happens best in the marriage of one man with one woman in a life-long union.

In each gender, God put traits to make it appealing to the other. This natural attraction between men and women was meant to be pure and normal, and lead to happy marriages, but when sin entered the picture, what had been winsome, free, and open, became ugly, strained, and marred. Since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God-given love has had to compete with Satan-driven lust.

To handle the lust problem, many options have been tried through the centuries. Women have been forced to cover themselves completely with long robes and heavy veils.

Some cultures have isolated women, requiring them never to speak to or have any social contact with men other than immediate family. Some men, trying to curb lust, have run off to monasteries, opting never to look at a woman.

These options may at first seem pious, but further examination reveals each displays a demeaning attitude toward women. All these activities in essence say woman is the problem and imply females are nothing but sex objects.

When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day clamored for the death of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:5), where was the man they caught her with? The Bible called for both to die (Leviticus 20:10). The leaders were in essence saying the woman was the problem.

The Bible tolerates no double standard. Men and women are both called to absolute sexual purity. Some suggestions might help us remain morally clean.

First, keep a picture of our spouse in sight. I have on my desk a picture of Ruth and me. I prefer a picture with both of us in it. It reminds me of our relationship.

Ruth and I belong together. Neither of us has an identity of ourselves apart from the other.

If unmarried, keep nearby a picture or object which reminds us what we will lose if we slip sexually. A picture of parents, friends, or children may remind us of the esteem we would lose in their eyes. A Bible or Christian jewelry can serve to remind us we would forfeit the smile of God.

Second, beware the trap of separate, parallel lives. It’s easy for husbands and wives to go their own ways.

Divergent interests can pry spouses apart. Our lives have to intersect often. Find activities both partners enjoy.

The marriage relationship was created to end loneliness. When Adam had no one like himself, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (GN 2:18).

Yet many husbands and wives are often lonelier than they were before marriage. This is dangerous.

Pam Tillis says in one of her country songs, “There’s a big difference between lonely and lonely for way too long.” Many married people, though sharing the same bed, have been lonely way too long.

Slow down. Pare down our schedules. We need to calendar events with each other.

At the first of each year, I walk our church staff through the calendar, making sure they have holidays marked. Time with spouses and family matters.

We need to ask ourselves, is our relentless pursuit for more stuff worth the destruction it’s causing in our marriage? We claim to be working for our spouses and children, but too often make them pay for what we do.

Third, determine at all cost to meet each other’s needs. In the healthiest marriages, each spouse thinks the other spouse is contributing the most to their relationship.

We should give ourselves totally to our spouse’s needs. Serve one another. We can not provide all their wants, but can meet their needs, which include:

– committing to help each other grow spiritually
– satisfying each other in intimacy
– sensing security and trust in the marriage relationship
– desiring to be served, to be treated as important
– verbalizing compliments for one another
– respecting each other’s roles and responsibilities
– helping each other have fun.

We are, according to our Lord, considered one with our spouse. Whether we admit it or not, he or she is the most important person in our life. Act like it.

Fourth, communicate, communicate, communicate. The art of marital communication has to be learned, practiced, and intentional. It does not happen by accident.

Good communication requires time. Husbands and wives need time away from parents, children, and friends to engage in face-to-face talking alone.

Watching TV and going to movies together do not enhance talking time. Exercising and playing a sport together also may not help communication. Ruth and I do some of our best talking at slow restaurants or when riding in the car.

Glance at one another often. Use secret pet words and names. Touch each other constantly. These are all vital forms of communication.

Saying “a penny for your thoughts” sends a good message. It says, “I want to know what you’re thinking. Your concerns matter to me. What you think and say is important.”

Always maintain eye contact when listening. Don’t interrupt while the other spouse is talking.

Balance the amount of time each spouse speaks. Don’t dominate the conversation.

I recently rode to a restaurant with Ruth. When I got in the car, I began talking about my day. As we neared the restaurant, I realized Ruth had barely spoken a word. I immediately asked, “How was your day?” It was too little too late. We were already pulling into the restaurant parking lot.

Never use words as a weapon. Stay away from ridicule, name calling, swearing, sarcasm, making others the butt of our jokes. Hostile put-downs are cancer cells eroding a relationship.

Avoid exaggeration. Don’t say, “You always, you never.” Words like these can be more harmful than blows. Always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). “Your speech should always be gracious” (Colossians 4:6).

Work hard at making sure the positive comments and experiences far outnumber the negative. Research indicates healthy couples balance positive to negative events at a ratio of five to one. In other words, it would be wise to say at least five (probably more) compliments for every criticism we make.

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