Two things have laid the burden of adultery on my mind this morning.
This week, a friend in another state emailed that the membership of her church is being plundered and savaged by adulterous affairs. She is asking for prayer.
Yesterday, healthy “ministry marriages” was the subject of our “Interpersonal Relationship Skills” class at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Toward the end of the session, we talked about how the enemy sabotages the Lord’s people through the lies of adultery.
I recommend J. Allan Petersen’s 1984 book “The Myth of the Greener Grass.” It should be bought and devoured and kept by every married person, particularly those in the Lord’s work.
Here is my own personal list of the devil’s lies concerning adultery. See if any have been dangled before your eyes.
1) “What I feel for him/her is real love. What I felt for my husband/wife was never the real thing.”
This line is heard by every marriage counselor, usually spoken by a truly nice person who is being torn apart by an affair, and trying to justify the damage they are inflicting on their marriage.
Say this to yourself real slowly: “Marriage is not about love; marriage is about commitment.” Carve it in stone. Erect it over your doorway. Inscribe it on your heart. Teach it to your children.
2) “This affair is a harmless bit of fun.”
Men are more likely to buy into this. The adage goes that “women will use sex to get love; men will use love to get sex.”
For reasons I don’t pretend to understand, men tend to separate sex and love more than women do. For women, they go together “like a horse and carriage,” as the song puts it.
The quickest way to dispel the myth that this is all harmless is to answer one question: Would your husband/wife agree?
As a longtime pastor, I have seen the damage adultery has wrought on ministries and marriages. It drops a bomb into the trust and the very soul of the faithful mate. I can see them as they sat in my office, broken-hearted, wondering why he did this, why he was willing to destroy everything for this dalliance. I had no answers beyond Romans 3:23.
One wife sat across from my desk, wringing her hands endlessly, as she cried out what she had learned about her husband’s unfaithfulness. I had always heard about people “wringing their hands,” but until that moment had never actually seen it. The image has been permanently inscribed on my mind.
Had that unfaithful husband seen the pain he was going to inflict on this woman who had given her life to him in marriage, he would never have done what he did.
That’s why it’s a lie, that this is all harmless. It’s as harmless as swallowing strychnine, as innocent as force-feeding rat poison to your children, as benign as Timothy McVey’s parking that U-haul truck filled with ammonia nitrate in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It’s deadly business.
“My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Those words from Cain (Genesis 4:13) after slaying his brother have been echoed in every generation since, as those who disobey God’s laws to get their own pleasure keep finding out. Too late we discover it was not harmless at all. On top of all the pain we caused, we threw our own hearts and souls into a cauldron of misery and torment.
3) “I deserve this.”
“I’ve worked hard and long. My spouse doesn’t appreciate me. This is going to meet a real need in my life. It’s for my own good.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Tiger Woods now admits that this was the lie he bought into as he engaged in serial adulteries. He was different from lesser mortals. The only difference, he discovered, was that he could play golf better and had more money. But when it came to the expectations of his wife and the relationship with his children, he was no different from the guy across the street who teaches math at the local college.
4) “The rules that apply to other people do not pertain to me.”
A variation of Myth #3 (“I am different”) is what I call the “rich person rule.” It also goes under the name of “the celebrity principle.” As he confessed the sinful behavior that brought down the PTL empire, Jim Bakker said, “Somehow, we just felt that the rules did not apply to us.”
They do. Whether you are the box office heart-throb of Hollywood or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the pastor of the biggest church on the East Coast, you too are human. Step off a curb into traffic and you will die, overeat and skip the exercise and you will get fat and die early, cheat on your spouse and he/she will be devastated and you will find your marriage in big trouble.
The rules that govern all our lives make no exceptions.