“You shall not commit adultery.”
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Adultery doesn’t start with a wandering eye nor even with being seduced by someone else. Adultery starts in the very heart itself, deep down inside the soul of the person who is not satisfied with his beloved. The dissatisfaction goes without question or understanding, and then it grows into callousness and hardness of the heart. Next thing he knows, the loving spouse has sought satisfaction in fantasies of what life would be like with someone else. And then the eyes seek someone else. And then the hand touches someone else. And then…
Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding;
He who does so destroys his own soul.
The heart that commits adultery in an earthly relationship is just as prone to spiritual harlotry.
Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
Just as the earlier commandments spoke of loving only God and of not going after false gods, so this commandment today speaks of loving only one’s spouse and not seeking any other. The two things are intricately connected.
22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
If in our covenant of marriage we are returned to the “one flesh” we once were on that last day of Creation, then when we return to God in repentance and faith, so we are rejoined to Him in spirit and truth. And just as we tear that one flesh when we commit adultery, so, too, do we sunder our relationship with God when we allow our hearts to stray from Him. If a man can allow his heart to wander from his wife, then there is no end to where his heart may go. Such lack of commitment comes from a lack of understanding the covenant relationship between spouses and God. No marriage is just between two people: it is between them and the Lord Himself. And if the heart wanders from the spouse, then the heart has already wandered from God.
So many relationships start with great expectations, and when the spouses grow and mature, as times and homes and lives change, our expectations yet remain the same. The vision of white-picket fences and financial success, the vision of an easy life with a loved one, the vision of simply raising a good child in a good neighborhood, the vision that was born of stereotypes and of romantic notions, the vision that was built upon lust–that vision clouds the judgment and rends our hearts. Through those eyes we see the whole world–God, spouse, and all–and yet we so often refuse to acknowledge that we have such prejudiced vision. And when God does not seem as He should be in our rose-colored vision, and when our spouse does not match up to the fantasy we have created for ourselves, and when the world seems to conspire against us at every turn, then we abandon them all. We stop turning to God in repentance and faith. We stop trying to grow in faith and love with our spouse. Our hearts start taking trips away from our family and our homes in little flights of fantasy, in little times spent away from it all, in little selfish indulgences. And then one day, we have stretched the cord so thin between us and them that it just snaps, and away we go. “I need my freedom” is the mantra of those who break from God and spouse and family. “You go into slavery and death” is God’s response.
7 “How shall I pardon you for this?
Your children have forsaken Me
And sworn by those that are not gods.
When I had fed them to the full,
Then they committed adultery
And assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses.
8 “They were like well-fed lusty stallions;
Every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife.
9 “Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the LORD.
“And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?”
How can we strengthen marriages? It starts with strengthening our relationship with God. If we are true to God, if we allow ourselves to experience all the adversity and persecution and yet remain His faithful children, then so much about our lives will be easier to bear. But it does take two on this earth to make a marriage work that way. Both must not only be committed to each other through thick and thin, but also committed to God the same way. Many often quote the apostle Paul in saying they ought not to be “unequally yoked” in a marriage to someone who does not love Christ. But Paul does not even mention marriage in that passage! (2 Corinthians 6) Paul is talking about our relationships to EVERYONE–our families, our communities, and even our God. We cannot have both God and something else as gods in our homes. We cannot allow the fantasy of marriage to co-exist with the reality. We cannot allow a façade of faith to war against the very real faith we must express in all we do with our lives. And we certainly cannot claim we have joined in “one flesh” with our spouse when in reality we have a spouse in the flesh and a spouse in the mind that are two different people. Marriage demands integrity, a oneness of faith and vision and deed that grows and adapts–and which feeds itself on the Word of God.
Our sinful nature leads us to believe we can have a fantasy of marriage and somehow mold our reality to match it, and yet life is NEVER so simple. We cannot have that fantasy at all! We may have hopes fulfilled, and we may have some blessings that pleasantly surprise us, but the overall reality of marriage is that it is a living thing. Marriage grows, changes, and matures. Marriage surprises us with its twists and turns, and it will never match our static picture of it because it is never the same from day to day–no more so than life itself is the same every day. And yet there is a certain constancy to be found in one thing in a marriage: the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. However, just as we are never meant to remain “children” in our faith but are meant to mature and grow from those who receive the gospel into those who preach the gospel (Hebrews 5:12-14), so must we also mature in our marriages. We are not meant to remain little children forever, and yet we are meant to keep the innocent faith of a child even as we mature in our faith and in our marriages. And as we grow in love and faith in the Lord and for our spouse, we come to understand so well what the beloved apostle wrote so many centuries ago:
1 John 4:11-12
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
God’s love is perfected in us when we love Him and love each other. Our love is perfected in keeping His commandments–which we do not out of an obligation nor thinking that it buys our salvation, but which we do out of love for the same things He loves. When we so love God, then we love and desire to be as faithful as He is–not just in our relationship with Him but also in our relationships with our spouses.
I have seen marriages broken by adultery, both the very tangible “other woman” kind of adultery and the less-tangible “fantasy woman” kind that comes from pornography and lust. And I have also seen marriages that have stood the test of time and the world, spouses that found their faith in God and allowed that faith to carry over onto each other. Don’t let anyone tell you that marriage is dead, nor that the swell of divorce is the death-knell of the very first covenant God established for men. And don’t be fooled into thinking that avoiding marriage will somehow enable you to avoid adultery–whether as a participant or a victim. The lack of commitment that leads people to just “live together” is the same lack of commitment that erodes people’s faith in God and Christ. If we are to be faithful to God, then we must be faithful to one another. That has been God’s plan since before the first sin.
Let us therefore love God first and always, to seek Him in all things–especially in our marriages. Let us not commit adultery in any way in our lives. God wants us to be utterly faithful, to repent of who and what we once were, and to be renewed in our hearts by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. If we would but keep that first great commandment–to love God with all our heart and mind and soul (Matthew 22:37-40)–then we would find it easier to love and to be faithful to our spouses, too. Let our hearts not wander from God, and then we shall see that our hearts will also not wander from our marriages.
Holy Father God, I pray that you would strengthen all marriages today. I ask that You would bring together God-loving people to set the example for those who are not sure how to build up their marriages. I seek Your wisdom for those who are going astray from Your Word and seeking elsewhere after things that are only found in You. And mostly, dear Lord, I pray and pray and pray that the leaders of Your flock would do all they can to revive the faith of Your children, enabling them to find the grace to bear with the hard and the easy times in their marriages, so that Your love is perfected in them through their love for each other. Amen.