Guest Post: Rick Copple.
The condition of your marital relationship indicates the health of your relationship with God.
Nowhere in Scriptures is this more clearly stated than in Eph. 5:21-33. I included verse 21, which says, “subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ,” because that context is so often missed in discussing these verses. It isn’t just about wives submitting to husbands, but husbands to wives by having a martyr-love for them, even as Christ did. Because we miss that context, we miss the bigger picture Paul is giving us. The state of our marital love often reflects our love, or lack of love, for God.
Paul makes this link clear when he writes,
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church.” (Eph 5:31-32 ASV)
Note, I’m not claiming there is a one-to-one relationship between the two. Sometimes the image doesn’t clearly reflect the reality of the other. Yet when we fail to nurture the love for our spouse, there is a high likelihood we are also failing in our love for God. Usually to the point of adultery.
It is why the prophets frequently related Israel’s broken relationship with God via the imagery of adultery. (Jer. 5:7, Hos 4:13)
- It is why adultery made God’s top ten sins list. (Ex 20:14)
- It is why the first two commandments focus on what it means to commit adultery against God. (Ex 20:3-6)
- It is why Jesus linked loving God in tandem with loving one’s neighbor. (Mrk 12:28-31)
Marriage is the ultimate loving another as one’s self. (Eph 5:28)
The result of adultery, like sin in general, is death. God graphically illustrates this in His law:
“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Lev 20:10 ASV)
While all sin is sin, few have the consequences of adultery. It is a sin against one’s own soul (Pro 6:32) and body. (1Cor 6:18)
I knew these concepts, had heard sermons on these verses, and understood what they meant. However, they were abstract to me. Abstract, that is, until it became reality. Until I found myself in God’s shoes, realizing my wife had played the harlot. My wife had committed adultery. Those abstract verses came alive. I felt the shock, the loss of trust, the dissolving of our relationship, the grief that I might have lost her and our marriage.
I tasted the heartbreak of God when we sin.
I also experienced the work and joy of encouraging the redemption and healing of my wife, my marriage, and myself over the past 25 months. By God’s grace, I’ve gone from devastated to grateful, a shattered marriage to hopeful, fearful to contentment.
So much so we wrote a book about our experience and what we learned through the process, study, and interaction with many other in our shoes, titled Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair. So few people who’ve gone through this are willing to talk about it. So few understand its impact on a relationship until it happens to them. Consequently, so few understand their adultery against God: following after other “gods,” offering them our attention, service, and obedience.
So what have I learned in going through this experience about my relationship with God?
The quality of the relationship does not cause an affair. A common view is if an affair happens, there must be problems in the marriage that caused it. This is no truer than blaming a rape on the clothing a woman wears. Issues may increase the temptation to have an affair, but they cannot justify this destructive approach chosen by the unfaithful spouse. Truth is, happy marriages can experience affairs and bad marriages can avoid them. Likewise, because God didn’t heal, help financially, (insert desired outcome) like you expected, it doesn’t justify committing adultery on Him. Committed Christians are tempted by this sin as well as the not-so-committed.
Quantity and quality time focused on the relationship heals and prevents adultery. To get quality, you have to put in the quantity. While marital problems are not to blame for affairs, addressing them is part of the solution. The key issue is what God accused the church at Ephesus of doing: losing its first love. (Rev. 2:4) If you think back to your early dating days, what did you do? You spent every available moment with each other. Once married, responsibilities dulled that excitement to the point you interact sporadically, and even then about children, chores, and finances. The route to restoring passion in a relationship is by spending enough time together that you can find those quality moments that spark romance, which acts like oil to the marital engine.
Likewise, how much time do we spend with God? How often do we worship? Pray? Read Scriptures? How we spend our discretionary time denotes what is important to us. If you were to map out your time spent each week, where would your spouse rank? How high would God be in your life?
Transparency builds intimacy. Once trust is destroyed in an affair, the only way to rebuild that is by the unfaithful spouse being totally transparent. Intimacy is built on trust in the other person. To rebuild that trust, one must open up their lives and hide nothing. After months and years of not getting blindsided by another affair, the hurt spouse can begin to feel safe trusting again. If part of the unfaithful spouse’s life remains hidden, there is no room for trust to grow.
The Apostle James exhorts us to confess our sins. (Jas 5:16) God wants us to humble ourselves before Him. (2Chr 7:14) When we hold part of our life as off limits to God or our spouse, we are refusing to share our life with them. What we keep hidden cannot heal. Instead it festers and becomes infected. Intimacy is destroyed.
Forgiveness is available, but consequences must be dealt with. One of my earliest thoughts upon discovering my wife’s affair was the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:3-11) Jesus was teaching when the scribes and Pharisees brought before Him a woman caught in adultery. According to the Law, they said, she should be put to death, usually by stoning.
So Jesus tells them that he who is without sin can cast the first stone. One by one, they leave. Then Jesus does something totally unexpected. He, being God, was the only one there who could have cast the first stone, since He was without sin. He, being God, gave the law that the adulterer and adulteress should be put to death. Instead, He chooses to forgive her. How could I, a sinner, not forgive my wife? I did on the day I discovered it.
Yet, that is not all Jesus did. He also tells her to go and sin no more. The consequences of adultery is inward, against one’s own self and body. (1Cor 6:18) It has created festering wounds on both those involved and the hurt spouse and family. The task of ensuring that one sins no more is active work to establish healthy boundaries, address character deficiencies that allowed one to chose this path, delve into the lack of spiritual health that contributed to this vulnerability. One should do what it takes to heal the wound instead of ignoring it and hoping it goes away.
God forgives. He frees us from the death sin would bind us into. But He also expects us to “turn from our wicked ways” as well. (2Chr 7:14) We still must heal from our adultery against God if we expect to foster a healthy relationship with Him.
The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then to love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27) Have you committed adultery against God lately?
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You can find more information about Rick’s book, Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair and a support forum HERE. Rick Copple also writes science fiction and fantasy under the pen name R. L. Copple. You can find out more at his author website, and his blog.