James Bond's license to kill meant that he could annihilate hordes of bad guys, but it was his license to fornicate that made more of an impression on me and millions of other baby boomers. Bond movies and others glamorously taught during the 1960s and thereafter that the good life is sleeping with lots of different women. One result is that lots of my contemporaries, Christian or not, are still greatly conflicted about sex.
Some of us publicly avow a biblical worldview but, when it seems that no one is watching, fall back into the Playboy bait-and-switch philosophy. The bait is physical pleasure and a sense of psychological conquest. The switch becomes evident over time when young bodies become old and loneliness swamps lust. Purely through God's grace I've been married faithfully for nearly 30 years instead of trying to build up stats concerning one-night or one-week stands, but it was a close call and I still remember the appeals of the other side.
A bunch of baby boomers, thinking we can have both family and adultery, advocate-sometimes by word but more often by semi-secret deed-"open marriage." That doesn't work for two reasons: It violates God's commands and it violates the nature God gave us. (We're made in the image of a jealous God who can't stand spiritual adultery, so why should anyone think we can smile through physical adultery?) Sometimes choices really are either/or: Become attached to one person or practice non-attachment with many.
Churches are supposed to be the alpha that leads us to the omega, the starting point for godly redirection that propels us toward the finish line. Instead, some church members pursue adultery and others wink at it, while the ABCs of alienation, brokenness, and confusion take their toll. Some church members become debilitated by disease or complicit in an abortion, but even those spared such traumas generally become sad, perhaps never understanding the long-term satisfactions they have missed.
We don't have solid data about the frequency of adultery, but pollster George Barna found the divorce rate among evangelicals similar to the overall divorce rate, with most of the divorces among "born-agains" coming after they accepted Christ-and you can bet that many of those divorces came after adultery. Ron Sider tells a story about one church in which "a man and a woman from two different married couples had an affair, divorced their spouses, married each other, and [continued] in good standing in the congregation in spite of their defiance of Jesus' teaching and the destruction of two families." That's all too common.
This is a tragedy for many reasons. It's a tragedy for the man and woman, for their families, and for other couples in the church who may have troubled marriages and now think there's an easy way out. It's also a tragedy for younger people in the church who have raging hormones and the acuity to ask a logical question: If middle-aged folks who should be settled down don't follow the rules, why should we? In other words, those who ignore "Do not commit adultery" are aiding and abetting those who ignore the command just before it, "Do not murder."
Our paramount message on Jan. 22 should be "Choose life," but pro-aborts are right to say that our parallel message has to be "Abstain from sex outside marriage." A few married couples choose death, but the overwhelming majority of abortions come when the father and mother are not married to each other. We can lower the abortion rate by offering compassionate help and developing laws that protect the unborn, but the front line is abstinence from extramarital sex-and older adults need to set a good example.
Evangelical pro-life efforts suffer when only 22 percent of non-Christians have a positive view of evangelicals generally. Part of the animosity can be laid at the feet of press bias, but many wounds are self-inflicted by actions that seem hypocritical. Societal reform always begins at home. Justin Martyr reported in the second century that conversion to Christ made a difference: "Those who once delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone." If a watching world sees that sexual life inside the church isn't distinctive from that outside, we have little hope of stopping abortion.