I read the following statement in an article recently in relation to adultery: “Our age allows most things to happen before marriage but accepts nothing much thereafter.” Before we’re married we’re permitted to sleep around, and so the implication seemed to be that we should also be permitted after marriage because the urge to do so doesn’t change. Of course, as a Christian this kind of logic really gets me stirred up, because once upon a time society did not approve of sleeping around before marriage, but as society abandoned this Biblical principle, many Christians everywhere would have been saying “This is the start of moral decay, so that eventually adultery will even be acceptable.” And here we have an article explicitly trying to move us further down that path of moral decay. Whereas the article would suggest we should permit philandering after marriage because we accept it before marriage, I would argue the other direction to say that we should not permit it before marriage precisely because we don’t permit it after marriage.
The article seems to put forward the argument that because we all have the desire to be adulterous, it is actually just as wrong to deny ourselves that desire as it is to be unfaithful. We essentially need to hurt someone; either our family or ourselves, and so we can legitimately ask which is the lesser of two evils. But I think that even a straight forward “lesser of two evils” evaluation would find us against adultery, since the damage done to the whole family is greater than the damage done to ourselves. I have a very worldly friend who says, in all honesty of heart, “Cheating is ok as long as you don’t get caught.” So even by her standards the damage to the family is greater, but can be avoided by them never finding out. Thankfully this “utilitarian” kind of morality is not how Christian morality operates. We know that God has created us, and has designed us with a certain nature in mind, and to follow a certain order. When we operate contrary to that order, we typically call that sin. Our consciences, among other things, tell us the difference. We know that adultery is wrong because nobody can do it in good conscience. This is why they keep it a secret. If we have to say “Cheating is ok as long as you don’t get caught,” then this reveals that our conscience knows it to be wrong for, as the Bible says: “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:20)
The Bible uses marriage to illustrate man’s relationship to God. A marriage, as God intended it to be, illustrates a God who loves us so much He would even die for us, just as a husband might love his wife so much he would even lay down his own life for her. And it shows Man as devoted to God exclusively, like a faithful wife. If, in reality, men and women cannot help their adulterous desires, then how much more will Man fail to be faithful to God? As society accepts more and more such things as promiscuity before marriage, and as Man more and more turns away from God, then a greater frequency of adultery is precisely what we should expect. If you cannot be faithful to your spouse, you can hardly be faithful to God; but the opposite is true as well, I think, because if God does not exist then your “god” is yourself. You are the highest authority in your own life, and as “god” you can decide what is and isn’t permitted, and what is and isn’t best for you. As this article I read pointed out, adulterous desires are always going to be there - the question is whether you are going to hurt your family by indulging in them, or yourself by not indulging in them. But if you are “god”, the law-giver in your own life, then you’re fairly biased in this judgement. Statistics show that around 50% of married people have been unfaithful, and I’ve thought for a long time that the real reason behind this is selfishness, or self-centeredness. Unless we deny ourselves and put our families first, of course we’re far more likely to give into temptation when that temptation inevitably arises. But the fundamental principle of Christian morality, which will guard against all temptations toward committing adultery, is to put others first, especially our spouses and children.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)