Adultery & Divorce

We've all heard statistics about divorce. It's more prevalent than ever; broken families are more likely to produce criminal children; as many Christians are separated or divorced each year as non-Christians; yada yada yada. But what do the statistics prove, and what do they really accomplish? Do bleak statistics deter anyone from splitting up when things get rough? How many fighting couples take a deep breath and look at the numbers....and if any do, how many stop fighting as a result?

The fact is, adultery and divorce are real problems, and statistics don't solve problems. They might give us a sense of just how monumental the problems are, but they are powerless to dissuade or counteract. Only the almighty God can solve the problems of adultery, infidelity, divorce, and oath-breaking because only God can solve the problem of sin. The Bible assures us that He has, too, in the person of Jesus Christ: God in the flesh, who sacrificed Himself for all those who believe in Him only for salvation.

Unfortunately, we often get the wrong impression about salvation. We hear a lot of people saying that Christ was thinking about us when He died, that we were uppermost in His thoughts as He agonized on the cross. While it's true that humanity was on His mind (why else would He say, "Father, forgive them"?), it's more accurate to say that Jesus was thinking about God the Father's glory as He breathed His last. Salvation isn't primarily about us, it's about God's glory (Ephesians 1:11-14).

In our propensity to see ourselves where we should see Jesus, we are clearly presented with the root of all sin. When Adam took the fruit and ate it in Eden, his act was one of selfish rebellion. No longer was he concerned with God's will; his own desires became an idol which he worshiped in place of his Creator. When we sin, we peer inward at ourselves instead of toward God, unable therefore to see either God or others.

Divorce, and the sins that usually lead to it, perfectly exemplify the selfish nature of sin. A man or woman who fails to be faithful to their spouse sexually, emotionally, or spiritually is guilty of idolatry, and while the idol-worship may manifest itself in a number of ways, the real idol is the appetite of the one doing wrong. Because we're all affected by sin there's usually not just one guilty party, but that only means two people are being selfish instead of just one.

The effects of such selfishness are far-reaching. It's easy to persist in sinful behaviors thinking that no one else is affected, but adultery and divorce affect everyone from the married couple, to the in-laws, to the children, to friends of the family, to the church body. The sins themselves are bad enough, but compound that with the aftershocks, pain, sorrow, anger, bitterness, etc., and you've got a full-blown cataclysm on your hands. There's no such thing as inconsequential sin, and these marital sins least of all.

Fortunately there's also no sin Jesus doesn't save us from. In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, the apostle Paul explains that, though he was the chief of sinners and had even persecuted Christ's church, God saved him from sin and to everlasting life. Jesus calls us to repent (Matthew 4:17), and to have faith unto salvation (Luke 5:17-26). If we do, our sins are forgiven, even the sins of adultery, faithlessness, and divorce. All our sins are forgiven if we have faith in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it's much more difficult for us to forgive each other, even though Jesus tells us to forgive each other without end (Matthew 18:15-35). Yet there is grace even for this, if we turn to Christ in faith. God is not faithless the way humans are. Indeed, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This is the promise of a faithful God, whose faithfulness persists despite our lack thereof.

Some people will balk at the conflation of divorce and adultery, but it's an association the Bible often makes:

"You cover the Lord's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, 'Why does he not?' Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 'For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.'"
(Malachi 2: 13-16)

Why does God make this connection? Because the relationship of man and wife is a picture of the relationship of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is called the wife of God; throughout the New Testament, the Church is known as the Bride of Christ. In the relationship of marriage, just as in the relationship between God and His people, husbands (Christ) are to love their wives (the Church), and wives are in turn to respect their husbands.

Will human husbands and wives ever fulfill this duty perfectly? Of course not. But adding sin to sin—committing adultery or obtaining a divorce because things aren't going right—isn't the answer. The answer is to turn to Christ, and in faith to remain true both to Him and to our spouse whom He has given us. This is true sanctification, and it has been the plan for Christian families since the institution of marriage by God. It requires prayer, humility, and honesty, but its rewards are peace, joy, and trust—the fruits of lives lived in faith to Christ and faithfulness to one another.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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