“‘But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person….'” – Jesus in Matthew 15:18-20a, NSRV.
While one act of adultery is horrible enough, I suspect many outsiders fail to grasp the depth of the spiritual problems present when adultery has taken place in a marriage. As I have written in other places, the spiritual reality about adultery is that it is soul rape. Yet that is merely speaking of the act of adultery. More is afoot spiritually when adultery takes place.
The adultery is the final manifestation of heart issues begun long before the sexual act took place. As Jesus teaches us, adultery is the overflow of an adulterous heart. When adultery is present in the marriage, the adulterous spouse has just exposed that he or she has major character flaws!
While stopping adultery from continuing is important, the more difficult task in healing a marriage is dealing with the root issues present in the heart of the adulterous spouse. We are talking about character transformation. That is why I think marriage resurrection after adultery is both miraculous and exceedingly rare.
Back to the Scripture:
Jesus is very clear in this passage that adultery flows…
Not out of the marriage.
Not out of the heart of a faithful spouse.
But from the adulterous spouse’s heart alone!
How ought this to inform our approach as pastors and Christian leaders in addressing adultery Biblically?
1) The question regarding adultery’s origins is never solved by looking at the marriage. Never. I make this strong statement because Scripture is very clearly on this matter.
Jesus says adultery flows out of the heart. Whose heart? The adulterous spouse’s heart. Want to know what caused adultery? Look no further than the heart of the adulterous spouse. All else is foolishness.
2) When adultery has taken place, the adulterous spouse has revealed major character problems. This means Biblically the problem is always more than “just” one act of adultery.
The one sexual act is horrific enough for those violated.
However, the act is merely the tip of the iceberg. As pastors and Christian leaders, we must grasp this reality and see godly marriage restoration as only happening after a miraculous change of character in the adulterous spouse has taken place. Anything less minimizes the problem and sets the faithful spouse staying in the marriage up for further trauma and abuse.
God grasps this reality. It is why I believe God offers mercy to faithful spouses. They are permitted to divorce an adulterous spouse after a single or multiple acts of adultery without shame (see Mt 19:9). God grasps this sad reality and acts with mercy.
Will His people?