A Positive Spin on Adultery
When I began my study of the 7th commandment these past few weeks preparing for this Sunday's lesson, I realized I had to start with a definition of adultery. And, once there, I was forced to define marriage. Without an understanding of the underlying framework, the commandment is worthless to us as Christians. So, what is marriage? No. Let me restate: what was marriage to the hearers of this covenant in 1500 BC?
Marriage was a societal institution. It protected women, giving them an identity and a purpose in society not elsewhere realized. It provided much benefit to men--domestic support, sexual pleasure, and a general status of having "grown up" into manhood. It completed both partners. And, most of all, it did all of this because that's how it was designed by God. The two become one, they complete one another, they interact with one another in a way that (ideally) preserves equality without disregarding their inherent differences.
And, if you haven't caught on, God didn't just do this so we could all have sex and make babies. Marriage is a picture of God's relationship to Israel. In unity with Him Israel found an identity and purpose not elsewhere realized. God receives their ministry, their worship, and is glorified on earth through Israel. It delighted God to love Israel. And, Israel was treasured and shown to be valuable even while they were submitted to God's authority.
Does that last part sound impossible? Does it sound impractical and chauvinistic to think that my wife can submit to me and glorify me and yet not be devalued in the process? I hope not. Jesus did it. Remember, He's submitted to the Father in hierarchy but nonetheless exalted and God Himself. (1 Corinthians 11, and for more good reading on the subject read Wives and Husbands)
So, that brings us to the issue of adultery, then. What is adultery? It's thumbing one's nose at the covenant of marriage. It's a bride saying to her husband, "I will disgrace you, not serve you." It's a husband saying to his bride, "The respect of you alone is not enough for me, I will find others and build a harem." Adultery disrespects the covenant God made with Israel. It defiles it. It dishonors it. It violates it.
So what are we to do? Is it enough that we do not commit adultery? Can we just abstain and be safe? Israel tried this. They drew their lines and found their loop holes. "I'll just think about it, but not act." One man might think. Or, "I'll act privately as a measure of controlling my lusts." another might have concluded. But Jesus came along and closed off the loop holes. He cut out the comfort zone.
"Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away... And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." -- Matthew 5:28-30Oh, great. Now what can I do. Here's an idea: take a positive spin on adultery. When we focus on what we ought not do, we tend to forget the fervor with which we ought to do many things. Love your wife as Christ loved the church. Submit to your husband as to the Lord. Have sex often. Enjoy one another's company. In short: invest passionately in your marriage. Do not commit adultery, instead, "Rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18).