Last week, I got a case of righteous indignation after learning that two couples I know have been impacted by adultery. I suggested that we need to stop talking about building a hedge for our marriage and instead erect a strong wall to keep out Satan's attacks on our covenant. This week, I want to look at what the Bible says about what someone should do when directly faced with sexual temptation.
You can't stay behind that wall all the time, of course. While I personally established The Rule that I will not be alone with a man who is neither my husband nor a male relative, that isn't practical for everyone. I recognize that you may need to be with someone of the opposite sex for work or in other circumstances. You may even find yourself tempted by someone when in a group. You may be contacted on social media by a person from your past that brings up residual feelings. You may receive overt come-ons from someone when you didn't ask for them. You are human. You were designed by God as a sexual being. You may one day be tempted to engage in flirtation, romance, or physical contact with someone other than your spouse.
So you should know how keep things on the up-and-up, you should have a ready response, you should prepare for battle...Nope. That isn't it. We often think that the way to handle an adulterous opportunity is to talk our way out of it--explain to the presenting party that we love our spouse and we want to remain friends and nothing more, blah, blah, blah.
Hey, we are never instructed in Scripture to do hand-to-hand combat with sexual temptation! Do you know what the biblical teaching for such temptation is? FLEE. That's right. Create distance between you and the temptation. Go away. Run for your life. Get the heck outta Dodge.
Joseph is the prime example for how to handle sexual temptation. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, he went to work in Egypt at Potiphar's house. He is described in the Bible as "well-built and handsome." So yeah, he was the Israelite version of Brad Pitt, Ian Somerhalder, Robert Pattison, or whoever you think makes nice-viewing. In fact, Scripture says that Potiphar's wife "took notice" of that nice view. And then she made her move. At first, Joseph explains that he will not do that to her, his master, or his God. But that doesn't do it, of course.
Genesis 39:10-12: "And though [Potiphar's wife] spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, 'Come to bed with me!' But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house." Do you think Joseph would have stood a chance with Potiphar's wife if he had kept trying to reason with her? To push his sexual desires aside when a beautiful woman begged him to sleep with her? To stay in close proximity to easy sexuality without lusting? Fleeing was the not only the best, but the only option.
A few years down the road, the son of an adulterous relationship, Solomon, decides to instruct his son on sexual morality. You might think that his love of his mother Bathsheba and his father King David might sway him toward giving them a pass on their adultery. Things happen, right? King David wasn't trying to be an adulterer; he just fell in love with Bathsheba one day, and there you go (never mind that he was supposed to be at war with his army).
But Solomon passes along the wisdom he received from God to his own son. Rather than telling him to "look but don't touch" or "just stop before you doing anything really wrong" or giving him some speech about free milk and cows, Solomon says in Proverbs 5:8: "Keep to a path far from [the adulteress], do not go near the door of her house." The entire chapter is worth reading, but the lesson Solomon wants his son to receive is that the only way to avoid sinning sexually is to avoid the temptation altogether. Just don't get near it. If you find yourself on the wrong path, take a detour. Don't go there.
One other verse from the New Testament puts this concept in as straightforward a manner as possible. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul says: "Flee from sexual immorality." The Greek word for "flee" here is pheugo, which means "to be saved by flight, to escape safely out of danger." Sexual temptation is a danger zone. You don't manage danger, so much as you get away from it. I don't talk my way out of an oncoming car; I get out of the road!
So if you find yourself tempted (and it is my belief that almost every married individual will at one time or another), FLEE! That means that you cut off opposite-sex friendships that begin to include flirtation or feel too familiar ("do not go near"); you avoid places where you will run into those who may tempt you ("he refused to...even be with her"); you deal with come-ons with physical distance ("ran out of the house"); and you know your escape route ("flee from sexual immorality").
Have you ever been in a tempting situation? Confession time: I have. When my marriage was struggling in prior years, I had a male friend whom I realized I enjoyed seeing a bit too much. Temptation to interact, flirt, or being physically close to someone outside marriage often happens when the marriage itself isn't meeting your needs for safety and intimacy.
What did I do? I fled. I stopped spending time with this couple (I was never alone with him during this time, since I was following my own rule). Whenever a stray thought about him appeared, I pushed it out and refocused myself on my husband. I confessed my inappropriate thoughts to a close female friend who was clearly on the side of my marriage. I created physical and mental distance. And you know what? A few months later, I had no such feelings for the guy. The feelings untended simply went away.
Boy, am I glad that I didn't confuse sexual temptation with covenant intimacy. I have a better marriage now than ever. God honored our faithfulness and commitment to one another by giving my husband and me a heart makeover that surpasses anything I had imagined.
Feeling tempted? Flee. That's the Bible's answer to sexual temptation.