When I was a boy, I recall hearing of a massive sex scandal that derailed Sen. Gary Hart from his presidential bid in the late 80′s. In the 90′s, the American public had to deal with the lies and unfaithfulness of President Bill Clinton. Although he made the now famous speech, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” he later had to publicly admit to breaking his marriage vows in a relationship that he said was “wrong.” When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his famous The Scarlet Letter a true fear existed in the culture and certainly within the church regarding the “scarlet A.” Through much of our modern entertainment and political scandals, those fears have been desensitized to the point that today many men are bringing the mistress home to the family through sitcoms like “Desperate Housewives.” What the family once feared and wept over is now celebrated and used for comedy relief and normal American entertainment.
The American Broadcast Company (ABC), in an attempt to up the bar in this increasingly competitive market in America is delivering a new show titled – “Mistresses.” While mistresses once were an unspoken evil, they are now being delivered to your living room through the television screen in form of – get this - entertainment. Has our culture really fallen to that low? Are we truly being defined as a sexually open culture that fuels our economy through the exploitation of women and home wrecking sins? The humbling answer to that question is – yes.
The statistics prove that what Americans once thought was evil and taboo – even from a non-evangelical Christian position is appearing in today’s mainstream sitcoms. What was once reserved for the black covered magazines on shelves behind the counter at the local gas station is now appearing on free network television in the form of what some are calling – soft porn. Is there any such thing as soft pornography? In a recent study through Women’s Health Magazine - it was discovered that 19% of women and 23% of men openly admit to committing adultery. If the truth were known, those statistics seem very low in comparison to what R. Kent Hughes wrote back in 1991.
Recently Leadership Magazine commissioned a poll of a thousand pastors. The pastors indicated that 12 percent of them had committed adultery while in ministry – one out of eight pastors! – and 23 percent had done something they considered sexually inappropriate. Christianity Today surveyed a thousand of its subscribers who were not pastors and found the figure to be nearly double, with 23 percent saying they had had extramarital intercourse and 45 percent indicating they had done something they themselves deemed sexually inappropriate. One in four Christian men are unfaithful, and nearly one half have behaved unbecomingly! Shocking statistics! Especially when we remember thatChristianity Today readers tend to be college-educated church leaders, elders, deacons, Sunday school superintendents, and teachers. If this is so for the Church’s leadership, how much more for the average member of the congregation?Only God knows!1
A recent Gallup poll, released on May 20, 2013 states that many Americans continue to believe that breaking your marriage vows is an unacceptable thing – even in our modern American culture, ABC is pushing their show forward and the people are buying it. The latest statistics show that “Mistresses” is growing rapidly (an increase of 17% over the summer weeks) pushing ABC to the 2nd place in total viewers for Monday night (ages 18-49).
According to the reviews, “Mistresses” is a show about sexual scandals, adultery, and the decisions “to fall or not to fall into bed” with another person that you are not married to. In an article published on The Daily Beast titled “Hey, ABC, so mistresses are OK now?,” Sophia A. Nelson claims that the show is a ”provocative and thrilling drama about the scandalous lives of a sexy and sassy group of four girlfriends, each on her own path to self-discovery.” Sarah Symonds, the founder of Mistresses Anonymous said, “Of course America is ready — we’ve been ready for years. It’s just the networks who haven’t been willing to take those risks. I for one am thrilled that ABC is taking this show on. It’s very astonishing it hasn’t happened before because in the states you’ve got shows about everything.” To sum it up, “Mistresses” is about the sin of adultery – perhaps on a different level than “Desperate Housewives” as it adds a bit of a serious plot to the show. At any level, the fact that ABC would dump an enormous amount of money into this type of show that is successful in the early ratings is one more clear indictment upon America.
As the church continues to persevere in our evil culture that celebrates the most vile sins, we must understand the foundation and purpose of marriage. The Bible is clear on both and it’s something we should never compromise. John Piper has rightly said, “The highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display. That is why marriage exists.”2
1. The Bible reveals that marriage has its source in God – not humanity. God created and instituted marriage from the beginning and we see the first marriage performed by God as He literally presented Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, marriage cannot be altered and redefined by any culture regardless of time.
2. Marriage is a love story between one man and one woman for life (until death separates the two), but it is intended to put on display a greater love story between Christ and His church. Ephesians 5 points out clearly that Jesus laid down His life for His bride (the church).
Although our present culture desires to alter and redefine marriage based on the false premise that God’s way is outdated is completely false. As the church moves forward in this sticky web of American sin, we must remember that the gospel was unpopular in Paul’s day and it remains the same in our present culture. Adultery is not something that should be celebrated and used for entertainment. What starts out with a show for entertainment leads to a desensitization of our hearts to one of the most vile and damaging sins – adultery.
Five ways to avoid the trap of adultery:
- Make sure that what breaks the heart of God breaks your heart.
- Flee from pornography – even if it’s labeled “soft pornography.” Doing nothing is not an option. Tim Challies, in his book, Sexual Detox, writes, “You can try to wall it off and prop something legitimate in front of it. You can box it up and throw a blanket over it. But it’s all just an exercise in denial. Sooner or later the death you have tucked away is going to stink.”3
- Put to death the sinful lusts of the human heart and continue to wage war on your sin until you cross the finish line of life.
- Refuse to be entertained by sins that abuse women and peddle them as products to be sold in our marketplace.
- Remember that Jesus warns of committing adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28). This is a violation of your marriage vows.
We must work to build up walls that prevent us from risking our marriages and families. The church should be a community that permeates the health and vitality of marriage and family. May God be pleased to raise up a new generation of covenant keepers who put God on display through marriage.
Proverbs 6:32 - He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.
A sinner saved by grace,
Pastor Josh Buice
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1. Disciplines of a Godly Man, Crossway Books, 1991, p. 21-22.
2. This Momentary Marriage – A Parable of Permanence, Desiring God Foundation, 2008, p. 25
3. Sexual Detox – A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn, Cruciform Press, p. 71.