Adultery: Test of Character or Irrelevant

By Harry R. Osborne

During the presidential primaries, we have heard some charges regarding the alleged marital infidelity of presidential candidate, Bill Clinton. It sparked a large controversy over whether such points are worthy of consideration by the voters even if true. While I do not know about the allegations, I would like for us to consider what marital infidelity says about one’s character.

The overwhelming evidence from recent studies regarding drug abuse, crime, violence, homelessness and poverty suggest that a common factor is the leading cause for all of them – the breakup of the family. Furthermore, studies regarding the breakup of the family show that marital infidelity, or adultery, is present in the majority of those marriages which end in divorce. We really did not even need the studies to expose the obvious. A little observation of our world tells us the same thing. The American family is in deep trouble and has been for some time.

Divorce is so common in our society that advertisements for “quickie” divorces are found in our TV guide. Is it a sign of advance when you can end a relationship meant to provide the security of love and acceptance for a lifetime for $59.95? Does it help children to learn about commitment and trust when their mom and dad show the opposite to each other by breaking the commitments of marriage and betraying its trust? Obviously not! What has gone wrong?

Adultery = Lying

In every wedding ceremony I have performed, both the man and the women made vows which went something like this:

Do you take this man/woman to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health? Do you promise to him/her your undying love and life-long devotion? Do you promise to honor and cherish him/her? Forsaking all others, will you keep yourself for this one and this one alone until death severs the tie that binds?

If you are married, do you remember taking a vow like that? Do you remember answering something like “I do” to the questions? I remember that vividly when I married my wife. That was a lifelong commitment! It was a solemn promise. To betray it would make me, in simple words, a liar.

Breaking that commitment of fidelity in adultery not only makes one a liar to the spouse and the people before whom the promise was made at the wedding, but also before God. He was a witness to the promise as well. God demands that vows made before him must be kept. Notice what he says: “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth ” (Num. 30:2). The following verses show a woman has the same obligation.

Regarding the commitment of marriage, does God really expect and demand lifelong fidelity? His word is plain concerning the matter: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; butfornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). That is simple enough for anyone to understand.

Adultery is not a trivial matter! It shows a terrible problem in one’s character regarding a betrayal of one’s spouse, one’s commitment and the God of heaven. In simple words, an adulterer is a liar and lying reveals a serious problem in one’s character. It has tragic and far-reaching consequences. We must not view adultery as a thing to be taken lightly or something about which we laugh. Instead, we must regain the respect for marriage and its commitments which will lay the groundwork for marriages that are severed only by death. The God who is witness to our actions demands such trustworthiness to our vows.

Avoiding the Problem of Adultery

God never meant for the home to be a place of heartache and sorrow ultimately destined to destruction. He meant it to be a place filled with joy and security. How can we build the kind of families God designed and avoid the tragedy of broken homes so common in our time? God’s word has the answer. Let us see what he says.

First, as the core of the home, a marriage must be built upon love. Not merely a love of mutual attraction and “chemistry,” but a love which is deeper, seeking the best for the other. The love God says ought to exist in a joyful home is one that is selfless. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved us when he died for us (Eph. 5:25). That love must mean more to the husband than all he owns (Song of Solomon 8:7). He must never leave that love to engage in adultery (Prov. 5:15-20). In short, he finds the ultimate joy in providing for the happiness of his wife. The kind of love God instructs for marriage is one that can be taught (Tit. 2:4). It is just such a love that causes the wife to seek the happiness of her husband (Eph. 5:24). This kind of wife is pictured in Proverbs 31:10-31.

Where love exists between husband and wife, it will be extended towards the children as well. Where that love is absent, children will also be deprived of the love God intended. When the husband and wife do not have the proper love for one another, the stage is set for multiplied problems. Children learn about love from their parents. When love is not present in the home, the children will grow to imitate the same lack of love in their homes. What is the result? A multiplying of more and more unhappy, unloving homes with each generation. On the other and, when the proper love is shown in the home, children grow to imitate that love in their families as well. The result of such families is a blessing to each member and to the people around them.

Second, God must be respected in the home for it to be complete. In the words of the psalmist, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psa. 127:1). The joint effort to serve God provides the direction and avenue for the family to work together throughout life. As the wise man of old said, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man” (Eccl. 12:13). God designed us as creatures who should reverently serve him. When that central purpose of man is overlooked, it leaves one without the proper foundation for all aspects of life.

Today’s society has denied these two important components to successful families. Instead of selfless love for another, the selfish “what’s in it for me” attitude has prevailed. Instead of jointly serving God, people have increasingly denied God the rightful place as Lord and Master of their lives. But the family that God describes in the Bible still works. It is still a place where joy and peace abound. God’s word will show us how to build it.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 11, pp. 323-324
June 4, 1992