The fall of Constantinople had dramatic effects on the Western world. From the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance to the ushering in of the Ottoman empire, the Western world would never be the same because of the 1453 battle between the Byzantines and the Ottomans.
The Ottomans had a great numerical advantage over the Byzantine army; however, the Byzantines had a fighting chance. The towering walls of Constantinople helped the Byzantines not be overtaken in the opening minutes of this important battle. If the Byzantines could follow a simple strategy, they would have had a fair chance of winning.
However, one small detail destroyed the Byzantine army, ensuring an Ottoman victory: someone forgot to close the gate to the city. The Walls of the city of Constantinople were formidable. They would have been key to a Byzantine victory. But someone left the gate open. Because of that gate being left open, the Byzantine army was defeated.
With this battle in mind, I can’t help but think of a battle that Christians face where one important detail is often overlooked, to the detriment of the believer. When I was growing up, I heard one particular phrase countless times, “Stay pure until you get married.” I was all for it. I asked God for help. I tried to honor God in the couple of relationships I had before I got married. However, it wasn’t until I got married that I took a step back to consider what that statement was implying. I took it to mean two things. 1) When you get married, you are no longer pure, and 2) you don’t have to stay pure if you have a ring on your finger. Either way, what these people were saying (unintentionally) was that purity doesn’t matter after marriage. What I am getting at is this: the teachings about purity build a great wall, but they leave the gate open.
However, I submit to you that purity is just as important after you get married. This is the forgotten battle. Pastors and Sunday school teachers preach and teach to teenagers about it. Teenagers will make decisions at camps and youth conferences to stay pure. Parents try to help their kids by monitoring cell phone use and how kids spend their time. But it seems, that as soon as a person gets married, hardly anyone checks up on married people. I know what you may be thinking, “If they got married, they must have figured it out.” That is not necessarily the case. One statistic showed that 65% of Christian men of all ages, regardless of marital status, purposefully viewed pornogrpahy at least monthly. That is alarmingly high for a group of people in which many had been taught about staying pure.
Please know that i am not saying it is pastors and teachers and mentors faults that nearly two-thirds of Christian men are not staying pure, even in marriage. That is a decision that they make. However, what I am trying to get at is this: we, myself included could do a much better job of being a help to those fighting this battle. So, what can we do as preachers and teachers?
Recognize that married men fight the battle as well. Just because a man has said “I do”, does not mean that they no longer struggle with lust. This is a sad fact. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. A man’s being married does not ensure purity. As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is half the battle.” Taking the time to recognize this should cause us to change up our strategy a little. Starting when they are young, maybe we should shift away from “Stay pure until you’re married” to “Stay pure.” Maybe shift away from “Stay pure for your future wife” to “Stay pure for Christ.” Friends, we must hit this battle head on. From the beginning stages of manhood, we must be instilling that purity is not only for single people. I’m not saying that it is too late for those who are married, but when we start young, a strong foundation can be laid.
Maybe you are fighting that battle. Husbands, you have a responsibility to stay pure. All the verses in the Bible that talk about purity that are always preached to teenagers are meant for you too. Men, your signed marriage license does not give you the right to watch every single scene on television. Just because you are married does not mean you can be flirtatious with that girl from your work. Having a ring on your finger does not mean you can walk into Victoria’s Secret and it not affect you. Men, be careful. Don’t think that being married gives you a pass on purity.
The call to purity should never be solely for teenagers. Married people need purity as well. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to stay pure unless you are married. The command goes farther than that. Specifically it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” While some passages that talk about staying pure and avoiding fornication (any extramarital sexual activity), are specifically spoken to young men (Solomon talking to Rehoboam or Paul talking to Timothy), we see that every time, he never says that purity is meant for a specific time period.
What can you do if you’re fighting that battle? Is there hope? Yes there is hope. It is never too late to get help. God never desires us to leave defeated. He never wants us to live in sin. Because of that desire, He gives us the answers. He gives a plan for victory. There is hope, so be strong! What do you need to do.
1) You need humility.
You must also know that it may take humility. Let me rephrase that. It will take a lot of humility. However, there is hope. Help is available. Don’t be afraid to ask. While you may be struggling with this issue of purity, you won’t be able to be helped until you humble yourself and admit your need for help.
2) You need honesty.
This goes hand-in-hand with humility, but you need to be honest. Men, the struggle needs to be confessed to someone, including your wife. Trust me, this won’t be easy. It will be embarrassing. But it’s helpful and it’s necessary. Be honest.
3)You need help.
One of the great things about being honest with your spouse is that they can help. Because there is a balance to be had between help and purity officer, I feel it would very wise to seek accountability in a spiritual mentor: pastor, Sunday School teacher, or carefully choose a trusted mentor. (Heath Lambert speaks of accountability in his book Finally Free. I would greatly recommend this book as a tool in this battle.) Accountability is necessary. You can fight this battle, but not alone. You need help.
If you are fighting this battle, don’t give up. Keep fighting. Pastors and youth pastors, don’t forget this battle. Don’t leave this gate open. This battle has taken out too many soldiers. One man said, “Bitterness hath claimed its thousands, but adultery its tens of thousands.” This battle has taken too many casualties. Let’s be ever so careful not to close this gate.