Just as God drew a boundary to protect Adam and Eve, setting clear boundaries in marriage safeguards us from temptation and cultivates deeper intimacy.
“Satan got Eve to doubt God by first getting her to doubt herself. ‘Eve, my dear, perhaps you misunderstood. Because I can assure you, you won’t die.’” — Secure in Heart, p. 151.
As I travel across the country speaking and talking with women, I hear a scenario described often. A woman marries a Christian man. Because he is a follower of Christ, she doesn’t even consider he might be engaged in a secret war against impurity. But then, slowly, signs emerge. He stays up late into the night online. When she enters a room where he is watching television, he quickly flips the channel. Then, after a sermon or men’s retreat, he confesses one of his many encounters with pornography.
She is devastated, and rightly so. But she doesn’t think to ask if there is more. She just wants it to be over. Surely he won’t do it again, now that he knows how much this hurts me.
Some brave women also describe their own struggles with bringing impurity into their marriage. For instance, she starts off reading steamy romance novels in order to get an emotional high without the pain of confronting issues with her husband. Eventually, yearning for more than her novels can deliver, she ends up addicted to pornography or in a secret emotional affair.
It’s easy to see why purity struggles tend to only intensify with time. And unfortunately, when one spouse introduces impurity into marriage, and the other doesn’t draw a clear boundary, both partners suffer losses.
What is a boundary?
In marriage, think of a boundary as a limit we set that protects the sacredness of our marriage – keeping us far from anything that could hurt our relationship. Certainly, God’s plan for sexual purity has always included boundaries. As Solomon said of the wayward woman, “Keep a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house…” (Proverbs 5:8).
We shouldn’t be surprised then that Satan’s very first attack on Adam and Eve came in the form of an all-out assault on the only boundary God had set. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).
One thing is for sure, Satan’s enticing lies then sound eerily familiar to the way he attacks today:
1. Did God really say? Who says this is wrong? How could it be wrong when it looks and feels so good?
2. What are God’s motives? Is God withholding from you? Does God want you to miss out on knowledge? Pleasure?
Often Satan seeks to desensitise us to the harmfulness of impurity by taking us there one small boundary break at a time. The truth is that God’s boundaries are evidence of His goodness and His desire to protect us from painful consequences. And, if you look at the many Scriptures that set sexual boundaries in context, you’ll find that they are wrapped in love:
No coarse joking, not a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3).
Treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
Keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4).
Learn to control your body in a way that is holy and honourable (1 Thessalonians 4:4).
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love…” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
“Watch your life and your doctrine closely … save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
“Keep on loving each other as brothers” (Hebrews 13:1).
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other …” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
Dave and I have come to see boundaries as our best friends – calling us to the highest expression of our love. Our boundaries include:
Not a hint of immorality. Neither of us is alone with someone of the opposite sex without advance permission from the other. We refrain from movies, books or magazines with full or partial nudity, or sexual innuendo.
Absolute purity. Dave confesses sexual temptation early. I make it safe to have the discussion.
Keeping the marriage bed pure. We focus solely on each other through eye contact and open communication.
Walking in the light. We’ve agreed not to initiate or receive lovemaking if there is unconfessed sexual sin or broken boundaries; we first confess and repair the rift.
Establishing good boundaries will not only help protect your marriage, but it will also create a refuge where you can taste the glorious freedom of being naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25).