“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 5:14
Let me begin by saying that adultery is emblematic of our heart condition above all else. When Jesus said, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he was elevating our understanding of unfaithfulness to our spouse to include the impurity we think and entertain in our hearts. (Matthew 5:28)
This higher standard is needed today more than ever, when marriage between a man and a woman is under attack from all sides. Whether it is a government’s attempt to redefine what marriage is, Internet sites like ashleymadison which blatantly advertise having an affair, the rising addiction to pornography, or the erosion of our own moral consciences due to the lack of healthy role models at home and around us (especially as glorified in the media), the game plan of the evil one is the same…corrupt God’s design for marriage by enticing a husband and wife with sin.
A sin like adultery doesn’t always begin as a bold declaration of defiance against God’s will and purpose for us. Many times we are hooked in ever so gently and deceptively ensnared. James 1:14 – 15 tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” I like how James reveals to us a very important antidote for resisting sin, especially sexual sin…Do not awaken desire.
A few weeks ago, one of my sons was in a hardware store with me. We got to the check-out where a magazine rack displayed all kinds of magazines with covers of skimpily clad and partially nude women. My son was deeply upset. “I can’t believe this!” He said, huffing and puffing. He turned his head away and started to pull off each of the magazines and flip them over! Because he wasn’t looking at them as he did so, it was hard for him to get them back into their slots on the rack.
I watched him, a little bit embarrassed, as it seemed like a rather extreme reaction when he could’ve just turned his eyes away. Did he really have to rearrange the magazines in front of everyone?! But then I realized, this was a good thing. He was acting on a conviction. For him, seeing a picture of a sexy woman makes him vulnerable to thoughts of impurity. So he did what he had to do to protect his eyes and turned all of the covers around.
Of all the sins in the Bible, we are told to FLEE sexual immorality. “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) Don’t venture near it, don’t hover around it, don’t dip your finger in it. RUN AWAY!
Last Sunday, Edric asked me to share practical tips on how to avoid adultery. Interestingly, someone wrote our church and was very upset, saying that we were imposing OUR values on the congregation which were not biblical and that we were a deeply insecure couple. The other accusation was that we were telling married persons that they cannot have meaningful relationships with the opposite sex.
To the first criticisim, that we were passing on unbiblical values, my response is this: Since the Bible tells us to flee immorality, what is unbiblical about saying we must do whatever it takes to safeguard our marriages? 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The evil one is a crafty opportunist. If we don’t have our guards up, anyone of us is susceptible to infidelity.
To the second criticism, here’s the reality…illicit relationships very often began as harmless, well-intentioned relationships with the opposite sex. Furthermore, affairs tend to happen in the workplace more so than in any other setting. Since women and men work closely with one another and spend alot of time together, it is unwise to have “meaningful” relationships with the opposite sex as a married person. To clarify, the word meaningful is different from being friendly, courteous, respectful, and kind (which we ought to be to all people). Meaningful connotes a deeper kind of friendship that crosses over to personal.
Dr. Liz Curin writes, “Over the past half century, women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers. In today’s economy, it is almost a luxury for a woman (or a man) to remain full time in the home and raise children. And so women and men have become accustomed to working closely with each other, particularly as the feminist agenda has continued to push for full and equal participation in the workplace. The reality is that many men and women spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their spouses. They engage in more conversation about both work and non-work-related matters. The emotional intensity of workplace demands can contribute to the forging of strong emotional bonds.” (Source:Atlanta Psych)
85% of affairs begin in the workplace. Think about the amount of time you spend with your spouse vs. the amount of time you spend with co-workers. Day after day, maybe 40+ hours a week, you and your colleagues share the ups and downs of work; you bond over projects, successes and difficulties at work. The close interaction, travel, and unavoidable closeness may lead to strong friendships and emotional attachments outside your marriage. The workplace provides opportunity and proximity to people outside your family. Women’s increasing entry into the workforce has correlated with a rise in the number of affairs women are having. It’s no wonder the workplace is the most common place affairs start. (Source:Good Therapy)
No one connives to tear apart their marriage by having an affair unless their conscience has been blackened by years of compromise and sinful choices. Usually a person begins to develop a “meaningful” relationship with someone who isn’t their spouse and a connection and attraction begins to form between them.
This is precisely why Edric asked me to emphasize the need to draw the line in marriage. Draw the line to protect it against adultery way before the choice becomes about sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse.
Our own personal boundaries may have seemed extreme as I shared them with the audience, but they were meant to be examples of how one can avoid adultery rather than personal values we were trying to force upon people. Everyone has to determine what extent is necessary for them to guard against infidelity. As for Edric and me, one thing we have found necessary is to avoid being ALONE with the opposite sex.
When Edric was in the corporate world, he did not have coffee or share a meal with a colleague who was a woman. He wouldn’t ride with a woman colleague in a vehicle to meetings either. If he really couldn’t get out of a situation, he would invite another officemate to join him or call me first to let me know.
Edric also applied being cautious when it came to hiring an secretary or assistant. He would ask me to meet any woman he planned to hire so that I could help him make a discerning choice.
Furthermore, when he designed his current office, he used glass walls so everyone can see what’s going on inside. All his private meetings with any woman who works for him are actually public.
As we began to be more involved in ministry, we also followed the CCF policy of “Do not counsel the opposite sex alone.” For example, when a woman asks for Edric’s advice, whether it is in person, via text, email, or social media, Edric will invite me into the discussion and ask me to be the one to minister to the woman, or we do it as a team. When a man gets in touch with me to ask for advice, I connect him to Edric.
No one is impervious to an affair. In fact, speaker and author, Francis Kong says that if you want to protect yourself, “avoid the ambush of overconfidence.” The devil uses all kinds of avenues to tempt us or make us fall in the area of purity. So Edric and I also draw the line when it comes to Facebook and other forms of social media and digital communication, too.
I used to dream about a certain person from my past, someone I used to have a crush on. I had no more feelings for him but one day he tried to get in touch with me through social media. I remember feeling a twinge of excitement. When I asked Edric if I could respond to him he was like, “No way! Don’t communicate with him at all!”
At first I reacted, but since this person was someone I used to be attracted to, I followed his advice. An article published in Psychology Today reveals that “Social networks are clearly another factor (for extramarital affairs) – if only to expand the pool of possibility. Emotional friendships that turn physical are the traditional point of entry for female affairs. Now, it’s very easy for those friendships to take root online. Some argue that social networks are merely an expediter; and that cheaters will always find a way. Still, if you’ve never quite gotten over your prom date, chances are you can find him.” (Source: psychologytoday.com)
Statistics from illicitencounters.com (yes that’s the name of the site!) and other legal studies show that divorce and Facebook are significantly correlated with increased flirting and illicit online affairs. In a study conducted by a law firm, out of 5,436 divorce cases a total of up to 1,087 cases cited that illicit affairs started with the social networking site Facebook. (Source: facebookcheating.com)
Edric and I aren’t paranoid about every person who reaches out to us on social media. We do give them the courtesy of a response. But we are careful about not carrying on casual chats or frequent friendly exchanges with the opposite sex on social media channels.
When Edric started to become a TV personality, he had a lot of women trying to get his attention through social media. One time there was a woman on Facebook who kept flirting with Edric. She would send him random messages to strike up a conversation or dialogue. She was very attractive and young, too. In other words, danger, danger, danger. I praise God that Edric ignored her even when she accused him of being a snob. And when she kept persisting, he finally “unfriended” her so she would get the picture.
Sometimes a person is obvious about their intentions, other times the invitation to dialogue is malice-free. The point is we all need to apply cautiousness, and be transparent with our spouses. Both Edric and I include one another in exchanges with the opposite sex if the conversation involves more than a few back and forth responses. Other couples actually have a shared social media account.
Another challenge surfaced for us when Edric started doing corporate speaking engagements around the country. This began right after I gave birth to my fifth child so I couldn’t go with him. To protect himself, Edric found a way to include Elijah in all his talks. He made it a point not to travel alone. The added blessing is Edric and Elijah have bond together as father and son, and they can maximise the nice hotel rooms by enjoying them together!
Author Ted Haggard writes, “So many times, I’ve seen men and women get into trouble when they travel away from home because they believe that no one will ever know what they do when away. This is a lie, and it will always come back to haunt you. In Genesis 38, the Bible tells the story of Judah, who went on a business trip. When he arrived at a distant town, he saw a prostitute and approached her to sleep with her. But he didn’t have any money to pay her, so he had to give her some personal items as a down payment. Of course, everyone knew those items belonged to him, and soon what he had done in secret, far away from home, was a public matter. And, again, we’re reading about his hypocrisy thousands of years later. His actions have brought shame to his entire family for many generations. It’s just not worth it. I remember an old tent preacher saying, sin will take you further than you want to go; cost you more than you want to pay; and keep you longer than you want to stay. (Source: Letters from Home. p. 20)
The reality is even if Edric and I have all these lines drawn around our marriage there have been instances where we had to deal with “issues.” I remember years and years ago he confessed to me that he was attracted to someone at work. He had to perform with this woman in a corporate show for his company and dance with her, acting like she was the woman he loved. As a result, the feelings spilled over into real life!
When he opened up to me about his feelings of attraction, I was hurt but I also realized that he was trying to be honest. Praise God he told me when the feelings were just beginning to bloom. So we talked about it, and by God’s grace, it was as if a spell was broken, as Edric put it. Whatever infatuation he was feeling went away when he brought it to the light.
This became a template for us. Today, we talk openly about purity so that hidden struggles don’t fester or grow into bigger problems in our marriage. But I also realized that it helps to put on the “best friend hat” so we can talk about our struggles without feeling like we will be judged or rejected for our honesty. It’s not easy to lay aside pride to do this! But as issues surface, we work through them and pray to overcome them, only by God’s grace.
I also have to add that meeting each other’s need for sexual intimacy is important for safeguarding against adultery. Edric has told me that it’s very hard for a man to keep his heart and mind pure when he is deprived of sex. We counsel a lot of couples and this is a common problem, even among young couples. As wives, we can have all kinds of excuses – pregnancy, breastfeeding, the kids, I don’t enjoy it, I can live without it, etc…But I will never forget what a pastor’s wife once said from the stage, “Have sex with your husband at least once every three days. Scientifically, that’s as long as they can go without it or they become vulnerable to temptation.” If this number doesn’t work, then perhaps a husband and wife can discuss how often is healthy for them. And be creative. Don’t let your sex life become boring. Talk about how you can better meet each other’s sexual needs and desires.
Sometimes the problem is that our concept of sex has been programmed by wrong role models, past relationships or the media which can have a negative effect on our sexual intimacy. So as added protection, Edric and I avoid movies, tv shows, music, or other forms of media that give us the wrong kinds of sexual appetites. And Edric tries his best to keep himself “porn-free.” (Before we got married this was a big problem in his life, which he openly shared when he spoke last Sunday.)
In an article published by GQ Magazine, author Scott Christian of the NoFap commnunity site argued that porn can lead to physical addiction, a decline in sexual satisfaction with one’s mate, and decreased sexual performance. This conclusion was based on surveys of 75,000 people committed to quitting porn and masturbation. For those addicted to porn, arousal actually declined with the same mate, while those who regularly found different mates were able to continual their arousal, Christian wrote. It’s known as the Coolidge Effect, or novelty-seeking behavior. Porn, after all, trains the viewer to expect constant newness. (We don’t want this to happen to our marriages!) However, he also pointed out that the survey showed that there is hope for the addicted, with 60% of those who embraced the “nofap” (no masturbation/porn) challenge saying that they saw an increase in their sexual functions…
Since women are wired a little differently, one of the ways that Edric protects me from adultery is he meets my emotional needs. He makes me feel loved, cherished, appreciated, prioritized and important. To do this, we have weekly date nights where we can enjoy each other’s company. And he will ask me, how can I improve as a husband? This keeps my emtional tank full and makes me less likely to seek out the affections or attentions of a man.
God created sex to be a powerful and amazing way to cultivate intimacy between a husband and wife. It’s supposed to be something we want to share with our spouse in marriage. Sexual desires are intended for our spouse. When we experience sex outside the context of marriage it is destructive to us as individuals, to our marriages (or future marriages if you are still single.)
When God gave the command “Do not commit adultery,” he had our best interests at heart. And when Jesus explained what adultery is, he clarified our understanding of this sin so that we will draw the line far away from it. Why? As the next two verses will attest, God is after our greatest good. His commands are meant to bless us…
“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalms 19:7
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
So never ever think it is normal to do it (outside of marriage) because everyone else is doing it. Let’s not lower our standards and rob ourselves of the wonderful intimacy God designed for marriage. Normal as God intended is a husband and wife enjoying trust, security, open communication, oneness of purpose and identity in Christ, and sexual pleasure. That’s God’s normal for all of us; that’s what Edric and I pray to have; and that’s why we try to draw the line far away from adultery.