Episode 15: Love Gone Astray- Adultery & Divorce

Peace to Live By Episode 15: Love Gone Astray- Adultery & Divorce - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I hope everyone is having a good day.

       It was September of 1957 when actress Lucille Ball was in New York to see a famous psychologist of her day, who was also a clergyman (see Ball, pub. 1996, p. 208). The TV show ‘I Love Lucy’ is a classic even to this day, as it is one of my favorites, and was a grand success in its time. By this time in 1957, the sixth season had been completed, and filming the seventh season had already started. But things were not going all so well for Lucy and her husband Desi Arnaz. It was reported among many that Mr. Arnaz was not being faithful to Lucy, not to mention the countless arguments they had been getting in. Lucy, though, was in New York, and she was seeking to fix her marriage.

       After more than a month of meeting with the psychologist, she was able to get Mr. Arnaz to fly out to New York for several meetings, an attempt at martial counseling (see Ball, pub. 1996, p. 208). But as many of you know, and as perhaps a few actually remember, things didn’t end well with Lucy. It’s most probable that her husband's adulterous relationships, among other problems, ended up destroying the marriage. Even a couple with all the money in the world could not escape the death of their marriage. Lucy noted in her autobiography titled ‘Love, Lucy’ the following:

“I’m a strong, independent woman, but making myself weaker didn’t help Desi. I had to realize that deep down he wanted to make all the mistakes in the book and wanted to suffer the consequences. He needed to punish himself. Toward the end of our marriage, he was practically jumping out windows. I was at fault too. I had lost my good humor and sense of proportion. When you’re mad and too rattled to see straight, you’re bound to make mistakes. You can’t go on and on for years being miserable about a situation and not have it change you. You get so you can’t stand yourself. I decided to divorce Desi.” (Ball, pub. 1996, p. 212)

Undoubtedly, many marriages are on the same brink of destruction, though they had begun at one time certainly in better days. And too, for some it is too late.

       Going back to the beginning, the interest between a man and woman obviously starts when the two people find an attraction with each other. If blessed by God, and on God’s time, the two people will begin a relationship, fall in love, and eventually get married. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to go. Anyway, the two people will grow in their marriage with one another, and having become one-flesh, have also given themselves completely to each other. Each person’s interests are no longer his or her own. The married couple shares life together as one, and gives each his or her love to the other. Full trust has been given to your partner, and your partner fully trusts you. This trust is innocent, and is not supposed to be violated in any way, shape, or form. It is when this trust is violated that disaster occurs. Adultery is like a bomb that goes off, and there is so much destruction. Sometimes, the damage can be repaired, and the relationship can be restored. Nonetheless, sometimes the damage is too great, and there is reason for divorce. Sometimes the damage cannot be repaired.

       It is these two subjects that I want us to focus on today, as Christians: the first being that of adultery and the second being that of divorce. There is an unpardonable sin with Christians when it comes to divorce, and I want to talk about that today as well.

       First, when we marry another person, God expects us to stay faithful to that person (not to mention that you should want to say faithful to him or her). Why wouldn’t you want to remain faithful if you really love the other person? It is important for us to remember that love is not solely a feeling, but rather is a choice a person makes to give him or herself over to another person. Love involves feelings, obviously, but is not defined by them. Rather, a person who really loves another will do so during the good times and the bad times, during the prosperous times and the times of trouble.

       The primary passage I want us to consider today is from the Book of Proverbs, which talks about adultery. This text is a bit lengthy, but nonetheless I feel it is particularly beneficial to read in regard to this subject. Turn with me in your Bible, or tap in your Bible app on your digital device, and let’s consider Proverbs 6:20-35. The passage reads as follows:

“My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.” (ESV)

There are several things I want to note from this passage. 

       Number one, note that your parents hopefully have taught you not to commit adultery. Now, for some of you that will be true, and for some that is not true. But thankfully, the Word of God is here to teach you. These teachings from your parents are for your own good. Or, you can remind yourself from God’s Word of the passages that tell you not to commit adultery, like this one. It is always good to keep God’s Word in mind, to have a good understanding of God’s will for our lives, as Christians. This should include daily time spent reading his Word, so the Holy Spirit can bring to your remembrance the things from God’s Word.

       Number two, note from this text that “the evil woman” or “the adulteress” is someone who appears to be attractive and pleasant. That is, it may not be obvious that there is trouble here at just a glance. I think we all know a person in our lives who fits this description. The person, whether male or female, just might not be up to any good, and that can be easy to tell. As the passage states, sometimes it’s the case that “a married woman hunts down a precious life.” But sometimes it’s not as easy to identify as it may seem. An adulterous person could potentially be anyone, for anyone can fall into the trap. That’s why obedience to God and knowing his Word are so important.

       I think that often times this is the case, where people get caught up in adultery without even realizing it. For example, let’s say there is a woman named Sarah who’s marriage isn’t going all that well. There are problems between her and her husband, Dave. Because Dave may not be fulfilling his responsibilities at home as a husband, Sarah finds herself at work by herself, and seeking love, the love her husband hasn't shown to her. There may be a coworker of hers, who is a man, who treats her kindly, and he may not mean anything by it, or he may. But Sarah might take more of an interest in her coworker than she should, and she might push the relationship outside of work. This here is the beginnings of adultery. The women’s husband didn’t take care of her, she got lonely, and she looked elsewhere for love.

       Now, even though the marriage relationship between Sarah and Dave was going bad, does that then mean that Sarah had the right to find someone else and cheat? No, it does not. Going back the passage, number three, we read that anyone who commits adultery does not “go unpunished.” Even though the text is talking about a man, we could say the same is true for a woman who commits adultery. Even if others approve of what the person is doing, even their friends say “It’s ok,” it’s not. We read of the person committing adultery that, “He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.” So, adultery causes permanent damage. It causes permanent damage to the person’s marriage, and causes permanent damage to the other person.

       There is one final thing from the passage I want to note about adultery, and this is that the other partner of the person committing the adultery will be deeply hurt, obviously. The text states, “For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts” (ESV). The reason for the fury of the man is that his bride has been taken from him. And he had put his full trust in her. Another man stole what was not rightfully his to take. And there is no way out of this. Adultery is like a bomb with shrapnel. The damage is everywhere and wide-spread, and there is no way for the thief to give back what he stole.

       So, what is a person to do when adultery has been committed against him or her in a marriage? Well, there are two options really. Hopefully, the partner who has committed the adultery repents, and the relationship is restored. Trust can be rebuilt, and even though it may not be exactly the way it was before, the marriage can be very prosperous and successful still yet. But there is the other thing that can happen. Perhaps the sinning partner is not repentant. Perhaps he or she leaves with the other person. Or, perhaps he or she doesn’t leave, but still commits the adultery. Whichever the case, ensuing divorce may occur.

       For the person who's spouse leaves the marriage with the other person, you can be sure that God has not abandoned you. Undoubtedly, the feelings of betrayal and the trust violated will well-up inside of you. But, as long as you are walking in right relationship with God, remember that he is with you (see Isaiah 41:9-10). The Bible says that a person who actively commits adultery without repentance is not a ‘real’ Christian (see 1 Corinthians 6). So, the person who has left needs tremendous prayer.

       But let’s say the person who is committing the adultery has not left the marriage, but continues in the adultery, trying to keep it a secret. Does the unoffending person have the right to divorce and leave the marriage? Yes, actually, the person does. Restoration is always best, but isn’t always possible. Jesus talked divorce and adultery in Matthew 5:31-32. This text states:

““It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (ESV)

The background on this passage is that the Jewish leaders, at that time, had made divorce acceptable on many different grounds, much like divorce has become in America today. But Jesus was stating that, to paraphrase, ‘No, you can only get a legitimate divorce if the other person has committed adultery. There are no other grounds for divorce. Getting a divorce on other grounds will cause the person you divorced to commit adultery if he or she remarries, and you and the new party to whom you marry will commit adultery because these relationships are illegal.’ And this brings up the unpardonable sin when it comes to Christian marriages. By unpardonable sin, as I have titled it, what I mean is that when a Christian couple gets divorced for any other grounds other than adultery, then each member of that marriage becomes disqualified from ever remarrying again (to a different person). That’s right. That's what Jesus just said. Either the couple gets back together, or each person lives in singleness for the rest of their lives. There is nothing in the Bible that gives people in such a situation the blessing to remarry. To marry another is to commit adultery and cause the person being married to commit adultery.

       Perhaps, though, you’re a Christian who got an illegitimate divorce from a Christian, and you are now remarried. Does that mean your current marriage is not valid and you should get another divorce? Of course not. You can’t undo what you have done. All you can do is repent, and go on living life in the freedom that Jesus has given to all of us Christians who are sinners (which is every one of us). God can wipe away the offense. But you can’t try to undo what was done in the past. God doesn’t play that game. But this does not mean that you who are single right now from an illegitimate divorce can just marry another person and then ask for God’s forgiveness. God will forgive you if you do that, but he is not mocked (see Galatians 6:6-8). You will undoubtedly face major consequences for such an action (see Romans 6, Acts 5:1-11, & 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 as examples of disobedience). The writer of Hebrews notes: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4, ESV).

       In the Bible, there is only one reason for a Christian to willingly divorce another, as we just talked about, and the person legitimately remarry. But besides adultery, there is another situation in which a divorce may occur with permitted remarriage. I want to state that there is one other reason where divorce may occur, outlined in the Bible, but I am not going to get into that today specifically. It will have to another time. Simply stated, the situation is this: Two people are married. One becomes a Christian, but the other remains an unbeliever. The unbeliever decides he or she doesn't like his or her spouse being a believer, and decides to leave the marriage, to divorce. This situation is outlined in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13. God allows the Christian in this situation to remarry after the divorce (brought on by the unbeliever). I am not going to get into this scenario today in more detail, but I want everyone to be aware that it exists as well.

       Now, before I close today there is one more text I would like us to consider. Back in Matthew 5, I want to consider verses 27 through 30, which occur right before the verses I read earlier about divorce and adultery (which was verses 31 and 32). This is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking again:

““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30, ESV)

So, it is important for us to consider that for all people, and in our context today of married people, just looking at another person and wanting to have sexual relations with that person, or to lust after him or her, in Jesus' eyes, in God's eyes, is the same as if you actually committed adultery with that person. So, we need to be careful that we are always aligning our thoughts, as Christians, with God's Word and with doing right. Now, don't misunderstand here: Jesus is not saying that if you think an adulterous thought, that your spouse then has the right to divorce you. When he is talking about divorcing, he is talking about adultery that has actually physically been committed. The sin of adultery—the actual sin of committing it physically with another person—that sin starts in the mind of a person. The person will typically have preliminary thoughts about another person, and those thoughts lead the person to incorrect behaviors. So, it is important to have your mind in the right place, so as to not let your mind be drifting you away from obeying God and being faithful to your spouse.

       Now, let's examine the part of the passage where Jesus talks about tearing your eye out and throwing it away, or cutting your hand off and throwing it away, that these parts of your body are better to be gone than to go into hell. What he means here is that if you are not saved and wanting to commit lust or sexual immorality is what is preventing you from being saved, that it's not worth it to keep the sin. It's better to give up these sins and accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, than to keep either of these sins and end up in hell. You can't be a practicer of sexual immorality and a follower of Jesus at the same time. Jesus is saying to you that, to paraphrase: 'It is not worth keeping your sin. It will only bring temporary and momentary pleasure in this life, but then when you die, you're going to end up in hell. It's not worth it.' That's what Jesus is saying here.

       In closing today, perhaps today you find yourself in one the situations that I described. Perhaps your marriage isn’t in the best shape it could be. Or, maybe you or your partner has been involved in adultery. Maybe your partner knows, maybe he or she doesn’t. Or, perhaps you’re being tempted to commit adultery, or your involved in adultery right now. Whatever the case, turning to God and following him in the matter will is definitely the way you should go. God will help you where you need help. And if you’re partner leaves you, God still will help you. People have free will to make their own choices, but God will always take care of you.

       Perhaps you’ve been listening to all of this I have been saying today but you’re not a Christian. Maybe you’re not a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, I am here today to tell you that God wants you to become a Christian. He wants you to be his, and he wants to lead you down a path of true life, to living life to its fullest extent. If that is what you would like today, then I have good news for you. God not only guarantees a relationship with him through Jesus Christ, but he will also freely forgive all your offenses against him through faith in Christ’s death on the cross for your sins. You see, Jesus died on the cross for your sins and my sins, in our place, so we won’t have to face the penalty for our sins. But we have to believe in Jesus, and give our lives over to him. He rose from the death triumphantly, and he defeated sin once and for all.

       
God can forgive any sin you may have committed. If you are involved in adultery or have been in the past, if you are repentant, God can and will forgive you. If you have caused damage to your own life and damage to others, God will indeed forgive you of any destruction you may have caused.

       If you would like to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior today, then follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I am a sinner. I have sinned against you throughout my life. Now, though, I turn from my sins and want to accept Jesus' death on the cross as payment, in my place, for my sins. I believe Jesus died on the cross for me and that he rose from the dead, enabling me to have a new life in you. God, I turn from following the ways of this world and give my life to you. Please guide me down the right path, as you know what is best for me. Please change me, Father, and make me become like Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

       Let's pray:

       Heavenly Father, thank you for this study of your Word today, in that we can try to better understand your thoughts behind adultery and divorce, and we can better try to align our lives with what you say is pleasing to you. I pray for those who have accepted Jesus today as their personal Lord and Savior, that you will build those people up and help them, and that you will reveal yourself to them through your Word and help them in their newfound faith.

       I pray for those who have been affected by the sin of adultery, whether it was their fault or not, that if it wasn't their fault that you would help those people and give them extra blessing today, Father. And for those who were at fault and are repentant: I pray that you will help restore that person and remind that person of your Truth, that any and all sin can be forgiven by you, and that you are gracious and merciful to all who will come to you with a repentant heart.

       Father, bless us today as we go about the rest of our day. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton

Reference:

Ball, Lucille. (1996). ‘Love, Lucy.’ The Berkley Publishing Group, New York: New York.