Sins & Secrets”1 after encountering, without intention, several bits of information that moved my thoughts in that direction. In studying those bits of information, a pattern characteristic of marital infidelity revealed itself. Then yesterday, a more concise pattern was unexpectedly encountered in a memoir, entitled, Rescue the Captors: Written from within a Marxist guerrilla camp in Colombia, the true story of a kidnapped jungle pilot. The author, Russell M. Stendal, added several appendices to his memoir and in the fourth one entitled, “The Fatal Tailspin,” he wrote:2
Jesus describes three steps to the break-up of a personal relationship. First, anger is allowed to build in our mind against our brother (or [spouse]). Second, our bottled up angry thoughts spill out as words of insult to the other person’s intelligence. … Finally, the inner motives of the other person are questioned and condemned. This causes heart to heart communication with the other person to abruptly cease (p. xxxviii, bold emphasis added).Oh, that we could see the pattern at its beginning; that we could acknowledge faults within ourselves; that we knew and lived the Beatitudes; that we were always willing to co-operate with Him.
If there is an unresolved, unreconciled problem in a home, similar to the one that Jesus has been describing here in Matt. 5: 27–30 and if we are on the outs with our spouse even temporarily, it opens us up to a very dangerous temptation. As we walk down the street, all the other members of the opposite sex that we see take on added attraction. The thought occurs to us: “Hey, why didn’t I marry one of these beautiful people instead of the ‘old grouch’ that I left back at home.” As the mental fantasies build in our mind, our eyes start roaming onto any opportune target that presents itself. Sooner or later chance presents us with the possibility of actually living out one of our fantasies. The transition from mental adultery to physical adultery is surprisingly smooth provided that the relationship with the original spouse remains interrupted (p. xlii, bold emphasis added).
The point that I believe Jesus wants to make is that seemingly innocent little impure thoughts wreak tremendous havoc on our lives and cause us permanent loss. If we allow impure thoughts such as anger, malice, unforgiveness, or impure sexual fantasies a place in our minds, they are seeds that we will be unable to prevent from germinating and translating themselves into actions. If this happens we might bear the scars of our folly for all eternity (p. xliii).
Divorces start out with little, seemingly insignificant details and fester until they are out of control. Even a minor little grudge, if nursed long enough, can develop into a full-fledged divorce. Once adultery has taken place, all it takes is one more minor spat with the spouse, and bags are packed, bridges are burned, and the family destroyed in favor of beginning marriage anew with the “someone else” who is available and waiting (p. xliii). God can forgive and restore us after a divorce, but something is irrevocably lost whenever a marriage is broken (p. xliv).
In Jesus’ description of the vicious cycle of how personal relationships can be destroyed, starting with a buildup of anger and ending in a divorce, the place that he tells us to watch out for the Evil One is at the very end when the Enemy would like to help us rationalize our problem and pretend that it really wasn’t our fault. If at any stage during the breakup of a personal relationship, we are able to honestly face our share of the blame and come to God with the broken attitude of the “poor in spirit,” throwing ourselves upon his mercy, it is possible to break the vicious circle of evil feeding on itself and replace it with the positive, opposite, upward spiral of mercy and love described by Jesus in his beatitudes. Remember: Good can also feed on itself and get better and better the longer we spend planting seeds of mercy, forgiveness, love, and justice. In the Kingdom of God the sky is, literally, the limit. Unlike evil, which can only corrupt and destroy that which was once wholesome and pure, good is creative and knows no upper bounds. There is no upper limit to what God can do with a human life if we are willing to co-operate with him (pp. xlv-xlvi, bold emphasis added).
And how déjà vu this pattern when we begin to divorce ourselves from God.
2. Stendal, Russell, Rescue the Captors: Written from within a Marxist guerrilla camp in Colombia, the true story of a kidnapped jungle pilot LIFE SENTENCE Publishing. Kindle Edition. (2011-04-21).
Additional Stendal quotes:
How can such “beautiful people” have such horrible divorces? How do personal relationships fall apart? Jesus says it all starts the minute we begin to harbor a grudge against someone else in our family (p. xxxvii).
When our conscience begins to make us feel uneasy and insecure, due to a damaged personal relationship in our life, how easy it is to head for church to salve our conscience instead of swallowing our pride and going to see the person we have wronged. Jesus says that he doesn’t want to see us in church, or even receive an offering from us, until we have tried our best to reconcile any broken relationships with those around us. Even if the problem seems to be only 1% our fault and 99% the fault of the other party, we are still required to seek the other person out (pp. xxxix-xli).
Most patients requiring psychiatric treatment have, at the root of their problem, an unreconciled hatred for someone, coupled with bitterness and unforgiveness (pp. xli-xlii).