What is marriage? Is marriage only about love, attraction, and living a fairy tale life that is dreamy and magnificent? Certainly, love, attraction, and happiness have a part to play in the marriage union and I think most Christians strive and pray for a happy marriage; one that will last a lifetime. But is happiness, attraction, and fulfillment the glue that holds marriages together? Is the key to a successful marriage found in finding the “right person who “gets you or completes you” and will make you happy forever and ever? I would suggest it is more than this.
We are continuing our series on the 10 commandments. Today, I am going to talk about the commandment that should technically be very simple to keep but because it is based on a covenant with another person made before God it is one that broken far too often both in the Christian and non-Christian spheres.
“Do not commit Adultery”
The word adultery, for some, is a seemingly harsh word and the more common, “softer” phrase people like to use for adultery is “having an affair”. You know, like an event or an occurrence that just happens. According to the website verywellmind.com, “typically, an affair is considered a betrayal of trust. It has the ability to cause significant distress in relationships and there are many reasons why people cheat on their partners (they include lack of communication, financial stress, low compatibility, emotional or physical disconnect, or lack of respect).” Notice sin is not one of the reasons. The article continues, “What's important to remember is that your definition of an affair is what matters most. Every person and every relationship is unique, and some couples may differ in the way they view this subject.”
So, what this website says is, adultery is subject to interpretation. I would venture to say that modern thought would agree with this statement. It is easier and less judgmental to say affairs are what you think they are instead of what God says adultery is. But this isn’t how God has established the covenant of marriage and the commandment to not commit adultery.
The word adultery comes from the Hebrew word that means “have sexual intercourse with anyone other than a spouse, as a married or betrothed person.” Simply put it is an act unfaithfulness towards your husband or wife. The marriage union is a public covenant made between two people before witnesses and God. Now, this isn’t what we think of when we attend a marriage ceremony. I know that doesn’t sound romantic, however covenant keeping is not about romance, it’s not about an expensive and elaborate wedding, it is about faithfulness to your spouse and to God.
In the many years I have been in ministry I have counseled countless men and women before they took their marriage vows and entered into wedded bliss. Some of the couples that I have counseled and married are still flourishing and others came to an abrupt end mere weeks after the wedding ceremony.
One question I ask in counseling is… “Why do you want to get married?” Usually (not always) the answer is, “We want to get married because we love each other and want to be happy and spend the rest of our lives together.” Who doesn’t right?
Timothy Keller writes very early in his book THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE, “While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It is a burning joy and strength, and yet it is blood sweat and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true… At times, your marriage seems to be an unsolvable puzzle, a maze in which you feel lost.” Keller does not suggest that love has no part to play in marriage because it does; he is saying that true marriage is not rooted in romanticism or keeping that “feeling” of love burning bright because there are times when romance and young love is not present. Quite honestly we face difficulties in marriage. This is why ultimately the sacrament or institution of marriage is rooted in Jesus (which always results in true love).
Adultery: An Affair of the Heart
Marriage is making a covenant. Marriage is about promising to be faithful to your spouse and making a covenant to honor, respect, and love her until the day you die. It’s also about keeping a covenant before God regardless of the difficulties you may face as a couple. God instituted marriage and he blesses it. The marriage union between man and woman is a beautiful thing, it is a gift from God, and it is a great example of how God remains faithful to His bride (the Church) regardless of her faithfulness.
Adultery is the opposite of marriage; it is breaking the covenant or promise between a man and woman thus dishonoring your vow or promise to your spouse AND to God. Adultery is the ultimate act of betrayal to your spouse and brings dishonor to God.
Now, we see in modern society that “having an affair” or committing adultery has become more acceptable in society. It has become the norm in many cases. I would venture to say that anyone watching this knows someone who either has committed adultery, was the one committing adultery, or had adultery committed against them. So, we know that in almost every circumstance the act of adultery always ends in someone getting hurt emotionally, experience heartbreak, and/or one or more people being betrayed. Adultery always affects someone negatively and this is why commandment seven is important.
If you recall, Jesus was approached by a religious leader and asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responds, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets depend on these two commands.” When we are unfaithful to our spouse, we break the two commands that Jesus says are the most important and that all things depend on them. When adultery is committed, we not only sin against our spouse, but we also sin against God. Covenant breaking is disobedience, and disobedience leads to rebellion.
Now, most of you can say , “I have been faithful to my wife/husband, so this commandment doesn’t really apply to me.” And my response is to remind you what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. No temptation has come upon except what is common to humanity.” What am I saying? Be on guard to preotect your marriage. Always pray for your marriage, for your spouse and yourself to be and remain faithful to your promises and vows.
My second response is to be mindful because adultery is not always a physical act. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:27 - 28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Just like murder, adultery begins with and is an issue of the heart. This, my friends hits a bit closer to home for many. So we must be mindful to pray for protection of over hearts and I would encourage you to pray the prayer that Job prayed in Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I look at a young woman (or man)?”
When Adultery Hits Home?
So how does this message speak to us today? It is important for us to recognize and understand that Jesus tells us that if your heart is not right with God, then you are guilty of commandment breaking and that commandment breaking is not just a physical act of betrayal and dishonor to God, it is a spiritual act of rebellion.
I would like to conclude with some practical points for when adultery hits home. When it does there are so many emotions that one can experience. Now, I do not want to diminish the emotions of hurt, betrayal, sadness etc. Those are common and natural responses and one would not be human if they did not experience those emotions. However, there are some responses we can choose to show if adultery has impacted you, your marriage or your relationships.
I think it is fitting to end with the story of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus in John 8:7 – 11. The civil law at the time declared that this woman should be stoned to death for being caught in the act of adultery. Jesus tells the crowd, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” We see that eventually the crowds left, and the adulterous woman faces Jesus who says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord,” she answered.
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
This is a beautiful act of forgiveness. However, some think Jesus let her off easy or didn’t take the sin seriously, but Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. Jesus has called this woman to a changed life; a life of repentance and for a transformed heart and this is what Jesus wants from us all.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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