People of Faithfulness (Exodus 20:14, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)
“You shall not commit adultery.” The seventh commandment is simple and straightforward. Sure, you could argue about what adultery means, but its traditional definition is also straightforward: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse” (www.dictionary.com). Why would this need to be a commandment? Shouldn’t consenting adults be able to do whatever they want? Where’s the harm?
When two people marry, they vow to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives. To be faithful to each other until one of them dies. They cease to be two separate, single people and become one. Of course, we live in a fallen world, and there are sound reasons for divorce. But God intended marriage to be an earthly reflection of his relationship with his people, the church. As the bride of Christ, the church pledges loyalty and faithfulness to God, and not even death can separate us from his love. However, as adultery destroys trust between spouses, faithlessness is equally damaging in the church.
The word adultery comes from the Latin adulterare, “to corrupt.” We talk about contaminated food or medicine being adulterated, which means spoiled or impure. The marriage relationship is to be pure and holy (set apart), as is God’s relationship with us. Faithlessness ruins the trust between people in such an intimate partnership. Adultery is utter selfishness that corrupts or spoils a love that is intended to be pure and holy. To be faithful to our spouse is to put that person ahead of ourselves and our own plans and desires, including work or hobbies or even our own children; to be loyal: to stand by him or her no matter what; to defend: to take his or her side, even against our own birth family. Only God is to come before the one to whom we have pledged ourselves.
We could blame modern culture, with its provocative advertising and sexually charged entertainment, for the temptation toward adultery. But the fact that this commandment was given to Moses and the Israelites thousands of years ago tells us that faithfulness in marriage has always been a concern to God. He knows that marriage is difficult. Putting another person, even one we love, ahead of ourselves isn’t natural. Standing by the one we married can be, at the very least, inconvenient and, at most, burdensome. Being faithful to a spouse can cost us time, money, and ego. The same is true for being faithful to God. Ultimately, faithfulness can cost us our very lives. God, though, demonstrated his faithfulness to us on the cross. Through his sacrifice, Jesus showed us how much he loves us, and that love is unconditional and everlasting. How can we be faithless to such a God?