“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Heb. 13:4
In the Christian circles that I have run with the last twenty or so years I have noticed something. They seem to believe in only one unforgivable sin. Adultery.
I was reminded of this custom yesterday. A once faithful Christian, a friend, who fell to sin and was rejected by church, family and spouse.
It’s a familiar story. If someone, whether our closest friend or even our spouse, commits this “unforgivable sin” the “innocent party” is urged to hit the marriage eject button and run to the courthouse to file divorce papers before the sun sets.
I am just going to say it. I am sick of this callous, unbiblical response to sin. I recognize, in this emotionally charged arena, there is only one opinion that really matters though. God’s. What does God say about the sin of adultery?
1. Adultery is sin.
“You must not commit adultery.” Ex. 20:14
I know this is true. Adultery is always wrong. There is never a time that it is excused, permitted or given a free pass. It is sin every time.
2. Adultery is a sin against God.
We would like to take adultery personally, right? I mean how dare they do something to ME? In the days that we struggled in our marriage to keep my husband from committing adultery and then being caught in the middle of an affair involving our dearest friends, I have struggled with taking it personally. How could they lie? How could they deceive? How could they throw away their example?
But we have to get one thing straight, adultery hurts us, but the sin is not against us. The sin is against a holy God who created them and loves them and longs to redeem them.
3. No one is innocent.
We like to think that the facts of adultery are pretty black and white. We like to cut clean lines right down the middle. There is an innocent party and there is a guilty party. But the truth is no one is innocent. We are all sinners.
Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” Rom. 3:9-12
Before we throw the “guilty” label on anyone, we better take account of our own worthlessness first.
4. Jesus forgave adultery.
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11
Funny, this woman didn’t have to jump through any hoops to prove she was sorry. She didn’t have to say the right thing. She didn’t have to be punished first. She was just forgiven.
5. God hates divorce.
Yes, the bible actually says that. “God hates divorce.”
“For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Mal. 2:16
When someone commits adultery, our flesh is tempted to throw out the adulterer with the trash. We are quick to divorce. We are quicker to advise someone else to divorce. But before we throw that kind of talk around we have got to remember that God hates it. He doesn’t dislike it. He doesn’t hate it sometimes. God, the creator of marriage, hates divorce every single time.
6. God believes in redemption.
There is a beautiful love story in the pages of the Old Testament. To symbolize his relationship to his people, Israel, God asks the prophet Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife. Really, a prostitute? Not exactly marriage material by our pious standards. What is God thinking? That’s pretty much a ticket straight to adultery. But Hosea does it.
Gomer, his wife, can’t resist her old life style, nor can Israel. They both commit adultery despite all that’s been given to them and despite the second chances.
This adulteress will be stripped naked and left to die of thirst. Her children will be rejected. Her life will be made miserable and her blessings all removed. And she will still go looking for her lovers.
Then God says something totally amazing:
“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there… I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.” From Hosea 2
“I will win her back.” God believes in redemption. God believes in buying adulterers and adulteresses back from their sin. God believes in being the rescuer and the restorer. God believes in second chances and 1000th chances because he is always faithful.
6. Grace is powerful.
I met Jesus in circumstances quite similar to the woman up there in John 8. I was caught in the act. I know Jesus deplored my sin. I know that he felt the nails driven deeper into his hands with every sin I carelessly committed. I know that he longingly extended the same hands with mercy to offer me a life line, a life line I wouldn’t take.
Until one day, his gaze was too strong to turn away from. I took his scarred hand. I accepted the offer of grace. I accepted the command to go and sin no more. Only I didn’t get the “no more” part down. Sin wove deep cords in my heart. Cords that had to be broken one by one. And one by one he snapped them.
Here I am today, a sinner, saved by nothing but the grace of God. That grace is what drives my obedience to him today.
- God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Eph. 2:8-9
- But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Rom. 5:17
- For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. 1:9
- What you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 1 Pet. 5:12
I challenge you, the next time someone you know commits the “unforgivable sin”, consider how much you’ve been forgiven. Consider how powerful the gift of grace is. Consider simply being like Jesus.
And if the sinner is you, trust me, the same hands that pulled me out sin are waiting to pull you out too. The same redemption that was offered to me is offered to you. The same grace that was extended to the adulterous woman is extended to you. And the same beautiful future with God that was promised to Gomer and to his people is promised to you.