Faithfulness is important. If you have nobody to be loyal to, then abstinence is key, for many reasons. First of all, keeping your pants on keeps you mostly disease free. STDs are not funny, unless you don’t have one. Then they’re a hilarious consequence to questionable behavior. Maybe that’s immature. Some people have them and did nothing to earn such unfortunate afflictions. My response to that is this- they’re a minority and I feel horrible for them.
That works for intimate or spousal relationships, but what about churches? Once upon a time, I made up a phrase that so far, within my own small community, has actually stood the test of time. I had a man in one of the small groups I was leading who I referred to as a “church ho”. This guy was actively participating in three different churches. He liked the worship at one, the fellowship at another and the preaching at the last. I judged him because honestly, that’s weird, it takes a lot of effort and where I come from, his continuous participation in these congregations meant that he wasn’t being faithful to any of them.
Before I’d made up my mind to leave the congregation I’d been part of for years, I started asking friends about theirs. I even began looking at church websites, trying to figure out what some of them were about. I continually told myself that I was only looking, that I couldn’t actually leave.
I kept thinking about what Jesus said in Matthew 5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already
committed adultery with her in his heart”
There I was comparing my relationship with the church to a man’s interactions with women again. But I realized that faithfulness isn’t merely a matter of presence. It would be more than a year before I’d split, but clearly, my heart was moving on. Faithfulness is more than simply showing up to the same place and tithing every week. If this was a romance, then I was already a cheater, but any infidelities were entirely contained within my inner-man. According to relationship-people, that is how adultery always starts anyway. There’s a little gem of marital wisdom from a single dude. You’re welcome.
I’m not sure if that was a paragraph of genuine confession and lesson learned, or a condemning admission that could potentially be held against me later. At least I’m honest enough to admit any of that, right? But here’s what I think: your church and your spouse are completely different. And if someone wants to compare church to your family to pressure you into staying, remember what Jesus said about family.
And now, at the end of it all (or at least feeling a little removed), I found a little empathy for the original church ho. Funny how God works, right?