“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14 (NIV)
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18 (NKJV)
“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-29 (NLT)
OUR GOD IS A GOD OF COVENANTS.
Throughout human history, starting with Adam in the Garden of Eden, God established a covenant, or contract between the two of them. The contract was conditional. “If you, Adam, obey Me, I will bless you. If you, Adam, disobey Me, you will be punished.”
As we know all too well, Adam disobeyed God. Yes, Eve played her part in the disobedience, but it was Adam who was given the charge to preserve order in the Garden, and he failed to do so.
Fast-forwarding through time and the imposition and dissolution of several other covenants, God instituted a new covenant, inaugurated with the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God.
It is a covenant not of laws but of grace. It is not a conditional covenant, either, based on “If you will, I will; if you won’t, I won’t.” It is a one-way covenant in which God proclaims that He will faithfully execute His part of the deal even though we, His people, often fail to exercise our own role.
LET’S LOOK AT SOME COMPONENTS of this new covenant through the lens of marriage.
As husband and wife go through the trials and joys of living together (The two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. [Mark 10:8 NASB]), they will become tighter in their need for and dependence on one another. They also will conflict when they disagree.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
—Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV)
So, here are some components of that covenant with God’s commentary:
- FORGIVENESS – Each of us is called to extend grace and compassion to our spouse. We will disagree. We will argue. In the end, we need to forgive and seek forgiveness. GOD SAYS: “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13 (GNT)
- FAITHFULNESS – Each of us is called to take our covenant vows seriously. We need to trust each other, and that means mutually agreeing to the covenant. GOD SAYS: “Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.” Psalm 85:11 (NIV)
- LOVE/RESPECT – The Bible says the man (husband) is to love and honor his wife, and the woman (wife) is to respect her husband. The husband is responsible for his wife’s safety and wellbeing. GOD SAYS: “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 (NIV)
- SHARPENING – As husbands and wives disagree with each other, and they will, they should do so in a way that encourages them to spend more time together, praying with one another, and sharing God’s will for their lives as revealed in His Word. GOD SAYS: “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NET)
THE FAMILY UNIT IS FOUNDATIONAL for our society to function properly.
Not only does our moral code, given to us by God through His Word, address family issues, but our legal code supported by three branches of government traditionally has enforced that code.
Unfortunately, the covenantal relationship at the heart of our civilization is under attack in our land, and throughout the Western world, as “secular progressive” advocates promote marriage stripped of its biblical underpinnings, as God, Himself, is stripped from His pivotal role as originator of our moral code.
Some have reduced our sense of propriety to advance their personal interests contrary to what God has given us in accordance with His creation plan solely to satisfy their individual wants. Many of those seeking high elective office have taken up their cause and promise a continued scaling back of legal protections enforcing that moral code.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
As a country, as a society, as a community, that leaves us in deep conflict.
However, as individuals who remain faithful to God’s moral code, that leaves us clinging more fervently to the God of our salvation. Our boat may be rocking on top of vicious waves, but just as Jesus’ disciples called out to Him for protection when their boat was taking on water (see Matthew 8:23-27), we can call out to our Savior for His protection.
“Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” ~ Jesus says
— John 13:34b (CSB)
He has given us the model of faithfulness and endurance that shows us daily how to negotiate the highs and lows of our lives, how to share joy and pull together against sorrow, how to show grace and tenderness and how to swallow pride and selfishness, how to promote harmony and goodwill and how to refrain from discord and dissension.
GOD’S NEW COVENANT with us illustrates this point very well. It is the model we are called to emulate in marriage. It is why adultery cripples the family.
Jesus goes first. (In marriage, each spouse should commit to going first, although generally it’s the husband role.)
Then we follow Him. (In marriage, this allows the other spouse, usually the wife, to feel free to follow.)
The Lord makes all of this possible because, as Scripture tells us, He loved us first.
“We love, because He first loved us.”
— 1 John 4:19 (NASB)
Our Heavenly Father, we are so blessed by Your faithfulness, by your new covenant with us in which You promise to forgive sin and, eventually, ensure everyone will know the Lord. We see how our marriage covenant between husband and wife, man and woman, is a symbol of that covenant arrangement, and that we are called to be equally faithful in abiding by it. Lord, that means not only avoiding the physical pain of adultery, but also the emotional sliding away of lust. Lord, help us keep our marriages pure, which are the foundation of civil society. We lift this prayer in the name of Your Almighty Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN
Questions for Personal Meditation and Small Group Discussion
1. When Jesus says that even thinking about committing adultery is a violation of God’s marriage covenant arrangement, can you see how wondering thoughts and desires can interfere with the close marital relationship a man and a woman need to become “one body”?
2. Can you see how the faithfulness required of a husband and a wife toward one another is modeled after the New Covenant arrangement between God and man, where God unilaterally pledges His commitment regardless of how man acts, and each of the two spouses is required to pledge his/her commitment regardless of how the other spouse acts? (Jesus noted the exceptions, which are forms of abuse.)
3. Do you accept the foundational aspect of marriage and family as institutions on which to build civil society and that, if the family unit breaks down, it wreaks havoc on the larger body, that the current divorce rate and the large number of adulterous relationships are destabilizing to families, harmful to children, destructive of the marriage partners, and detrimental to the larger society?
4. Are you grateful that God is a God of love, grace, and compassion (yes, and of wrath, too, because there needs to be accountability and judgment), that He is faithful to His promises, and that His promises are designed not to harm us but to prosper us, to give us hope and a future?
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