By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Perhaps one of the most difficult situations a married couple will ever face is when there is infidelity. I have been married for ten years and I can’t imagine something more gut-wrenching than if I or my wife decided to be unfaithful to our marriage vows. It is even hard for me to write those words. I know for many couples there is no coming back from infidelity in the relationship. If you have experienced or are possibly currently experiencing infidelity, how do you deal with it? How does the Bible address infidelity and what should you do if you are in this situation?
How does the Bible address infidelity?
To begin with let’s first look at how the Bible addresses infidelity.
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4
Let’s begin with the obvious; infidelity is a sin. When a married person engages in sexual activity with someone other than their spouse this is infidelity and God has declared this to be sin. What you must be aware of as it relates to infidelity, is the person committing the sin is doing it at three different levels.
1. Infidelity is a sin against God.
Whenever sin is committed it is first and foremost a sin against God. This is true of infidelity. If you remember when Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he said “how could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? (Gen. 39:9). As you know when you marry you are taking a vow before God to forsake everyone else and remain faithful to your spouse. If you break that vow, you are sinning against God.
2. Infidelity is a sin against your spouse.
The marital vow is not just made to God, but it is a commitment made to your spouse as well. When someone engages in infidelity, they are sinning against their spouse by violating the vow they have made.
3. Infidelity is a sin against your own body.
Many people don’t often think of sexual sin in this light, but the Bible is clear, sexual sin is a sin against your own body.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18
When you choose infidelity, you are sinning against yourself and violating your own body.
The collateral damage of infidelity.
When the Bible addresses infidelity, it presents cases highlighting the collateral damage associated with it. There are numerous stories that speak to the fallout that happens because of infidelity. One of the most well-known examples is David and Bathsheba. Even though God forgave this sin, David experienced grave consequences in his family life afterward. I don’t have time to explore it now, but you should study David’s family life before and after he committed adultery. It was not the same after Bathsheba as it was before.
When a person engages in infidelity there is going to be collateral damage that goes beyond just the spouse. It can impact children, families, friendships, church communities, and anyone who is connected to that person. There really is no boundary to how far the damage of infidelity can go. Infidelity can produce residual effects and when you count the cost you will discover it is not worth it. Consider these verses from Proverbs which I believe drive this point home.
“But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.” – Proverbs 6:32-33
Think of the many people who have faced shame and disgrace because of choosing the road of infidelity. It is safe to say many who have journeyed down this road wish they had made a better decision.
Infidelity is a choice.
One thing that must be made clear is that infidelity is a choice that generally follows a series of bad decisions. The average person does not wake up one morning and say I want to be unfaithful to my spouse today. There are some people out there who have no regard for their marriage vows and do look for these opportunities, but that is not most people. Most of the time infidelity follows the pattern of sin we find in the book of James.
“But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” – James 1:14-15
There are many ways that can lead someone down this path toward infidelity. Regardless of how you get there, it usually begins with one bad choice, followed by others which eventually will lead you to this place of infidelity.
How do you protect yourself from infidelity?
When you look at how the Bible addresses infidelity, it also gives you some practical advice on how to guard against it. Here is one of the best ways to protect yourself from infidelity. Run. In 1 Cor. 6:18, which we looked at earlier, Paul gives a command to flee from sexual immorality. For most people, the best way to protect themselves from infidelity is to avoid situations that can lead to it. This means you guard what you watch and who you spend time with. Be mindful of the relationships you develop outside of your marriage, especially with members of the opposite sex. These relationships often start off innocently but can potentially become a problem. Here are four practical ways you can flee from sexual immorality.
- Avoid having deep intimate conversations with members of the opposite sex unless your spouse is present.
- Be careful about spending too much time alone with members of the opposite sex. This can be at work, at church, at the gym, or in any setting. This could plant a seed that might lead to infidelity.
- Avoid watching or reading sexually explicit material which can ignite the flames of sexual desire within you.
- When the Holy Spirit warns you that a relationship is inappropriate, shut it down.
Many times, infidelity can begin with an emotional connection, a physical connection, or a spiritual connection. The more you guard against these things the better off you will be.
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people." – Ephesians 5:3
What if you have engaged in infidelity?
If you are engaging in infidelity right now, then you must stop immediately. As we have outlined you are in sin and the consequences of your behavior are quite severe. However, you should not just stop and continue in your marriage as if nothing has happened. You owe it to your spouse to be honest about it and deal with the fallout that comes with it. This will involve some difficult conversations but because you violated the trust in the marriage your spouse has the right to know about it.
What if you are a victim of infidelity?
If you are a victim of infidelity the Bible is clear this is a legitimate ground for divorce.
"I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 19:9
However just because you have the right to divorce, does not mean you should automatically go in this direction. As difficult as infidelity is the first question you must consider is can there be reconciliation? There is no one size fits all answer to this question because every circumstance is different. There is no way anyone can make a blanket statement about what a person should do if they are facing infidelity in their marriage. Because of the many consequences that accompany divorce, if it is possible for the relationship to be reconciled then the attempt should be made. However, it is important to note that in some circumstances infidelity puts the relationship in a place where it is beyond repair. In these cases, divorce is a justifiable and acceptable option.
Infidelity is not worth it.
The truth about infidelity is it is very difficult to deal with. The Bible gives us guidelines, warnings, and instructions for how to avoid it and address it if it happens. Clearly, the best solution is to avoid it at all costs. Infidelity is simply not worth it. The momentary pleasure is not worth the backlash that comes with it. You will not be happier, and the outcomes will be far worse than you could imagine. Stay true to the one God has given you and may you find all the pleasure you desire, both in the bedroom and outside the bedroom, in the spouse God has joined you with. I will leave you with this last warning regarding infidelity.
“Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.” – Proverbs 6:27-29
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Fizkes
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.