Monday, June 21, 2010

Divorce - Facebook Made Me Do It! . . . .

The other day I attended the wedding of a couple of young friends. One of our pastors, Troy, issued a wonderfully straightforward and realistic challenge to the pair as they were just minutes away from embarking on their life together. Troy talked about the covenant of marriage in the context of a future reality that on their wedding day this couple would find to be unimaginable. That reality that all married couples eventually experience is the reality that requires the very covenant Grant and Jenn were making before God, their family, and their friends. It's a reality that the inevitable dry spells, challenges, difficulties, and selfishness always bring to a marriage sooner or later. It's the reality that some day and over the course of some days, we are all tempted to forsake our covenants and follow our feelings (or "heart" as some like to say in today's world) into behaviors that are not only wrong, but destructive. When it comes to our marriages, we should never say "never," thinking that these are the things that only happen to other people and will never happen to me.

Instead, we need to realize that our tendency is to wander away from the rightness of God's will and way. We need also to realize that there are places of temptation and danger that to which we just can't and never should go because going there is like throwing gasoline on the smoldering coals of depravity that live in us all.

An article that someone passed on to me just a couple of days before Jenn and Grant's wedding pounds this reality home. It seems that lawyers in the U.K. are reporting that the growth and popularity of social networking sites like Facebook are being used by people to make online connections (new friends, former classmates, old romances) that oftentimes lead to cheating, adultery, and divorce. The problem isn't Facebook. The problem is how the fallen and broken human heart leaves us with a bent towards using Facebook in dangerous ways. Over the course of the last three or four years, I have seen the growth of social networking technologies paralleled by a growth of poor decisions and crossed boundaries by Christian brothers and sisters who should know better. I have sat across from many who have entered into emotional and/or physical extra-marital affairs that have led to tremendous amounts of pain and difficulty that reaches far beyond just the immediate participants, some of which has resulted in divorce. The lawyers in the U.K. are saying that now, one in five divorce petitions they're processing cite Facebook as either the way petitioners find out about their partner's infidelity, and/or how their partner began or pursued extra-marital relationships.

For those of us in youth ministry, there are three categories of relationships that I'm afraid we'll be seeing and hearing more and more about in regards to the abuse of social networking and marital breakdown. First, there will be the parents of our kids. You'll be called on to intervene not only with the children of brokenness, but with husbands and wives whose marriages are disintegrating due to this stuff. Second, there will be your kids. Most of them are several years away from being married themselves. Still, talking about these matters and issuing the necessary warnings shouldn't wait for premarital counseling sessions or post-wedding crisis intervention. Finally, there's us. There's not a single one of us in ministry who doesn't struggle with the temptations. When that one who claims he or she doesn't struggle with it proudly speaks up about the fact that they've been spared, we should be doubly concerned. We've got to be about the business of knowing our bent, knowing how our bent will lead us into temptation, and avoiding like the plague the places and practices that can so easily take us down. We should all be growing tired of hearing and reading about friends and others in ministry who have blown it. But we should never grow tired of reminding ourselves that we're only one bad decision away from the same thing.

The problem isn't Facebook or social networking. The problem is me and the problem is you. If we're about the proclamation of God's design for marriage and showing Jesus to the world through our own marriages, this is stuff that deserves our attention.


susan said...

Our family has suffered for over a year due to someone reconnecting on with a junior high crush. they both left their spouses, one has a 15 year old daughter (my niece) who has been forced to choose between two long distance parents. this couple will soon be married, in spite of the fact that the daughter hasn't spoken to the spouse to be yet. trying to respond christianly, morally, and graciously has been an ongoing challenge in the midst of tremendous anger and pain. I won't even facebook "friend" an old flame, even from 30+ years ago! you just can't be too careful!

J. said...

Maybe part of the problem is with the marriages, themselves.

If people are willing to leave their spouce over an old flame (or new flame) from the internet, what does that say about the marriage and the state that it was in?

Its my opinion (and strictly that... and opinion) that many people are rushing into marriages, now days, with out being properly prepared. And by properly prepared, I mean spiritually, emotionally, and socially.

Our society, for quite some time, has bput a heavy emphasis on marriage. Its considered the normal thing to do when you get older, almost as though it is required. People who get married get special tax breaks. People's engagements/weddings are posted in special sections of the newspaper. Magazines make huge deals about celebrity weddings. Heck, if you're not married by the time you're, say, 30 years old, some people get accosted with questions from friends/family such as "Are you ever going to get married?," "Don't you think its time you found someone to settle down with?," "So do you think is this woman you're dating 'the one?,'" etc.

People seem to be in an awful rush to get married. Nobody seems to want to take the time to get to know their future spouce AND THEMSELVES properly before they take that long walk down the asile. And often times, that leads to disappointments in the future (when they finally start to realize who they and their spouce really are, and what marriage consists of), and that in turn leads them to being more susceptible to temptations from earlier relationships, or new ones where a sense of "romance" can seem fresh and new compared to what they now have.

While I agree with much of what you said in your blog post, I would like to suggest that perhaps its time that pastors, priests, and others in ministry address the issue of people being prepared for marriage first, so that those who want to enter this sacrament God has given us can be fully ready to do so. And maybe that will help cut down on the number of marriages we see being damaged by reconnecting with old flames on Facebook.

The Ready Writer said...

I agree with Walt: the problem isn't facebook. I use my facebook account as an evangelistic tool!

However, technological advances do make it much easier to explore avenues that once upon a time would have been reduced to a brief and redundant thought

The internet has enabled us all to dabble in private detective work and find those people who in bored or weak moments we might wonder about.

Whilst I don't think facebook or the internet is the cause of infidelity they do facilitate the evil desires that dwell within. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked - who can know it (Jeremiah 17 : 9). If anything the internet exposes the depravity of man/woman.

Think about it - I can't remember the statistics quoted but I was shocked to find out how rapidly the number of people being arrested for viewing child pornography increased after the introduction of the internet. I don't think for one second that this is simply the way that humans have degenerated over time - I think most likely those arrested today would have wondered about child porn in the past but never had access to it. The internet sadly offers that access...a thought becomes an action... and people are able to pursue the wickedness of their own hearts. We are sadly just seeing the true state of people's hearts being exposed.

Rahul said...

Facebook, tweeter or gmail - one should not forget and lose the traditions of yester years and too much of outwardness and intermingling outside the proper relations should be avoided - to maintain and keep up the family relations