This is the twelfth post in the 1/2 Marathon being orchestrated by the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association. There has been a lot of discussion on some of my posts this week (especially Why Do Married Men Masturbate). I’m going to answer one of the questions I received on that post. Please note, these are my perspective. I cannot vouch for all males and when I’m giving my perspective on women, I certainly cannot vouch for all women. Also, all references to gender traits are based on the average population, there are exceptions of course. Please do not be offended by these if you are not “neurotypical” for your gender. So, on to the question:
If a spouse, I’ll say husband but it can be wife, too gets aroused by someone or something, say an unexpected sex scene or flash of nudity in a movie, is it OK to turn that arousal towards their spouse, or should they turn off (for lack of a better description) that arousal instead through prayer, cold shower, accounting, etc?
I think first it’s important to make a distinction between temptation and harbored thoughts.
Temptations are thoughts that enter our mind that have the potential to lead us to sin. They can enter our mind by our senses (see, hear, etc), or they can spontaneously enter our thought (promoting by the Devil? Or just our fallen nature?), or they can come about due to a habit (sometimes for a long time even after you have quit that habit), or some other way I’m not thinking about. As I said, these thoughts have the potential to lead us to sin, but they are not sin. How do I know they aren’t sin? The Bible is pretty clear on this topic:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.Matthew 4: 1
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:15
Now, if Jesus was tempted, it cannot be sin, because Jesus never sinned.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.James 1:12
So, we can be tempted and still come out blessed, it is our reaction to the temptation that is important, not the temptation itself.
So, how should we react. When I started this post, I thought the answer was a simple, but after reading the Bible verses on the topic, I believe I’ve found a three step protocol for dealing with temptation.
Step 0: Pray
I’m calling this step zero, because it is preventative. This needs to happen before you are tempted.
And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”Luke 22:40
Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.Matthew 26:41
This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,– Matthew 6:9-13 The Lord’s Prayer
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
We should be praying for God to keep us from temptation. But this needs to happen prior to the temptation itself. So, what do we do when we have been tempted, because prayer alone will not keep us from it, even Jesus was tempted.
Step 1: The Word
So, the first reaction should be to rely on God. Jesus is tempted 3 times in the desert. Do you know what his reflex to temptation is? Let’s take a look:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.Matthew 4:1-11
Three times the devil tempts Jesus, and three times Jesus answers. How does he answer? With scripture, he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16 and 6:13 respectively.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:14-17
We are given a full suit of armour to defend us, but only one weapon to retaliate with: the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (IE: the Bible). Jesus, being the word made flesh knew this better than anyone. When attacked, He struck back with the only weapon that we have against temptation: the Bible. This is why reading your Bible is so important.
Step 2: Escape
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.1 Corinthians 10:13
First, we can rest assured that God will never let us be tempted by more than we can handle (or escape). But when we are faced with temptation, we should escape. Now that means different things in different situations. If we are watching something on TV and a commercial pops up that causes us to be tempted, look away. That might be enough for some people, some might need to leave the room. Some might need to not watch TV (probably not a bad idea for any of us). If you are tempted by women on the beach, leave the beach. You’re better off having missed a day at the beach than to be tempted and harbour those thoughts. It’s not as bad as losing a hand (Mark 9:43).
Extrapolation (my thoughts, not scripture)
So, on the premise that God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle, that He provides options for escape, or a means to endure and that our sexual self is to be saved for our spouse alone, I submit that having your spouse help you in these times, to eclipse those tempting thoughts by thoughts of your spouse, and I think there may even be some side benefits to this:
What if every time you saw an attractive woman, you went to your wife for a kiss. After a while, your brain would probably connect the two. Eventually, I would think, when you saw an attractive woman and your wife wasn’t there, you would instantly think of kissing your wife.
Or, if you are a wife and a handsome young man starts complimenting and flirting with you, what if you excused yourself and called your husband and told him you loved him. If you made this a habit, eventually, I would think, when someone flirts with you, you would instantly think of calling your husband to express your love for him.
So, to the point. Do I think it’s OK to redirect these thoughts to your spouse? Yes! However, I think you should both have the understanding that this is acceptable in your marriage. That your spouse agrees that you can come to them when you are feeling tempted, without fear of rejection or shame. Temptation is not sin, it does not mean you are a weak person or unfaithful. In fact, to harbour those thoughts and keep them from your spouse I think is more detrimental to the marriage than being open and communicating about it.
To answer the specific question, I think if you see an unexpected sex scene, nudity, etc in movies, that tempts you, turn off the movie, turn on your spouse. But, do not make the habit of finding movies with “unexpected” sex scenes or nudity in them. That is where you cross the line into harbouring impure thoughts, and I’d argue that you are deliberately looking for pornography, and that’s not going to help anyone. I hope people understand the difference between what I’m suggesting with this post and the secular idea of “it doesn’t matter what turns you on as long as your having sex with your significant other”. These are two very different things.
So, what do you think? How do you handle this in your marriage?