I wonder if they really think they did anything wrong. And, if they think they did something wrong, what degree of wrong do they think they did? I’m talking about the 20 students from the New York suburbs who find themselves in trouble for charging between $500 and $3,600 to take the SAT and ACT for others. The last two students just turned themselves in. Some could face prison sentences of up to four years.

This is a multi-layered story in terms of the cultural forces at work. Sure, there’s the cheating. But there’s also academic pressure, life goals, parental pressure, societal expectations, misplaced priorities, and idolatry in the layer beneath the cheating. There’s other stuff I’m sure.

What struck me as I read the news this morning is that this story offers just a small peek through a window into what we’ve become, who we are, and where we’re headed as a society. We’ve got some heart problems, for sure. And if left unchecked, the roots of cheating will continue to snake their way through the soil of our lives. If we look ahead and ponder the fruit our lives will bear in the future, it becomes obvious that we need to whack away at the roots where we seem them growing in ourselves and in our culture.

One reality we should consider in all this is how cheating at a young age in the simpler and smaller things of life, sets the table for us to grow up willing and able to embrace cheating in the larger and more significant things of life.

As I pondered that this morning, I opened Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers to find the November 29th “Prayer for Marriages.” I love how Scotty reminds us not only of our own brokenness and bent, but for our need to seek protection from the evil one, as his plan is to undo Shalom in every area of life, including the high and holy covenant of marriage. We know this to be the case because cheating is not only prevalent in marriages outside the church, but also within. That’s something we need to hear and receive as a somber warning.

Scotty Smith’s “Prayer for Marriages” is one worth sharing and praying today. Perhaps it echoes the yearnings and realities of your own heart, as well as the concerns you have for your friends. It does both for me. . .

“No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:29-32)

Lord Jesus, I’ve been greatly saddened lately over the growing number of my friends who are disconnected from, despairing of, or dying in their marriages. I’m saddened, but not shocked, for two reasons. It makes all the sense in the world to me that the one relationship meant to mirror your love for your Bride would be under constant assault by the powers of darkness.

Why wouldn’t Satan want to do everything in his power to keep us from showing and telling the stunning story of your great affection for your Bride-how you have sought and bought a most ill-deserving people, like us, to cherish, nourish and cause to flourish… forever? Of course marriage is going to be a war zone-the front lines of spiritual warfare until the Day you return, Jesus. Of course, Satan doesn’t want the gospel to take root and offer the fruit of your redemption and restoration in our marriages. He hates you, he hates the gospel and therefore he hates your Bride.

But I’m also not shocked over the great percentage of marriages that are struggling, because I know my own heart, Jesus. Like most of us, I came into marriage, as you well know, with little gospel and big naiveté. I had no clue about the depths of my brokenness, the degree of my selfishness, or the devices of my sinfulness. I had no clue about what it would mean to love one person well the rest of my life, someone who needs the gospel just as much as I do.

And I certainly had no clue that your love alone is better than life… that your love alone can slake the deepest thirst of my heart… that your love alone can provides the depths of intimacy I crave and for which I have been made… that your love alone can free me to love another sinner-spouse the way your love me as your spouse-for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish… forgiving and forbearing… accepting without acquiescing… doing the hard and heart work of the gospel.

So, Lord Jesus, I pray for my friends, as I pray for myself, protect us from the evil one, and restore us to gospel sanity and gospel reality. Give hope to the hopeless, conviction to the foolish, nourishment to the famished… grace-filled wisdom to the betrayed and godly sorrow to the betrayers. So very Amen, I pray, in the loving and restoring name of Jesus.

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