Thou shalt not commit adultery
Things have changed, haven’t they. When we consider how the ideas around sex and marriage have evolved, if you may, from the time of the 10 words, to today…it’s mind boggling.
During the time of Moses, women had lost almost all of their authority. What was once a maternalistic society, based on agriculture and community had become, through force and attrition, very paternalistic, and through that change, women were put in their place, so to speak. In many cases, they lost much if not all authority and power that they once held.
And, as we see today, many women are still working their way out of that label, of being property, with no voice. What was meant for a specific time and people, has been carried through to all time and all peoples.
And the moralistic and the prudery of the Puritans & the Victorian age didn’t help. Adultery wasn’t discussed, but in whispers; and sex, at that time, was a naughty word.
Not so today…but some wonder if this is due to an increase in immorality or a decrease in hypocrisy.
Have we failed miserably in keeping this commandment?
The word Adultery comes from adulterate – meaning to pollute or to add to.
From its Hebrew root, it is ‘a total or complete abandoning of one’s principles.’
Adulterate, then, means to add something that cheapens the quality or upsets the completeness.
And is it a judgment that we place on any situation, based on moral codes & values that change with ages & cultures.
Purity is a matter of consciousness & Prudery is simply a moralistic hang-up.
Sex is not a thing – it’s a way in which a person may express.
If we look at it as a thing we reduce ourselves to the level of animals.
Let’s start with Sr. Joan Chittister. She calls this the Law of Commitment
When this was written, men were permitted multiple wives, women were property of the husband. Having several wives was a sign of wealth, a means to further the family name, to continue that wealth and name into the future.
The law was really meant to prohibit Hebrew men from being with another man’s wife. And a wife from being with any other man but her husband…a bit of a sexist thing there.
So, adultery was really about property and inheritance. No love involved…but responsibility for one another and for the family.
The word implied here is commitment, a notion of permanence, family, the spiritual meaning of the constancy of relationships.
Sr. Joan says marriage today is about finding what’s missing in ourselves & providing what’s missing in another until both can become who we are really meant to be. It’s about growing together and forward.
Two equals are meant to become more together than they ever could be alone. I like that.
We are reminded that none of us is self-sufficient. We all need others for many reasons and growing is one of those reasons.
What can all this mean for us today? A new Harris Poll found that 23 percent of men thought it was sometimes or always acceptable for an employer to expect sex from an employee.
Today, 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, tho the rate is slowing.
Not surprising, one of the major causes of divorce is surrounded around the misunderstandings about sex.
In fact, Adultery is often what signals that the relationship has already deteriorated
It is a disregard for the relationship, exploitation of the partnership, narcissistic victimization of another-sexually, emotionally, psychologically, for the sake of ones self.
The capacity to form & maintain relationships is one of the signs of mental health, of psychological maturity, of the ability to respond appropriately.
Love that lasts, that invites itself in the welfare of another, is the only human proof we have of the nature of God who is with us always.
We must truly care about the people we love, not just for our own satisfaction. Not exploit them, not ignore them, not patronize them, not manipulate them.
This is not about physical misbehavior – it’s about the integrity of the heart, about loving people more spiritually than physically; it’s about loving them rightly …with the soul as well as the body.
Simone Signoret says, “Chains do not hold a marriage together, it is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” It’s the weaving of those threads that counts.”
Commitment is the byproduct of communication. When the sharing stops the relationship is in danger. I can personally vouch for that.
There is a Chinese proverb: “Married couples who love each other tell each other a thousand things without talking.” If you know what your partner is thinking, respond to it. If you don’t, ask yourself why you are not communicating.
Sometimes the ‘other person’ is a job, an obsession, a hobby…it’s not always about sex.
Joe Murray said, “marriage should be a duet – when one sings, the other claps.” If the feelings are beginning to unravel, ask who isn’t clapping.
Neal Donald Walsh tells us his Commitment: You will not defile the purity of love with dishonesty or deceit, for this is adulterous. I promise you, when you have found God, you shall not commit adultery
If we think about it, adultery symbolizes idolatry. The fundamental idea behind the commandment is to have one God, to recognize only one Power. To us, idolatry means giving power to a false god, to outside things.
And adultery involved the violation of a sacred agreement; it was not necessarily concerned with the sex act per se.
This commandment has to do with moral, clean living; no one should entertain the hope of complete spiritual expression who has not learned to comply with the highest code, both in his personal life and in his dealings with others. Spiritually, to ‘commit adultery’ is to adulterate or weaken the higher consciousness by injection of carnal thoughts and emotions.
Leonard Felding seems to agree.
He gives us his Challenge: How to Elevate your sexuality to greater sacredness & fulfillment
This Challenge unites spirituality & sexuality by suggesting that “a profound erotic intimacy can be attained only by having a spiritual connection & long-term commitment to another human being.”
The Biblical term for sexual intimacy means “to know” – to know a person as a full human being, as a complex & wonderful soul mate.
Sex was meant to be more than physical contact & release-it involves knowing each other, respecting & caring for each other in both physical & spiritual dimensions.
Felding believes getting to know your partner fully is crucial to finding sexual fulfillment.
Clifford & Joyce Penner found, “Sex is not something we ‘do’ to someone, neither is it something we do ‘for’ someone…sex is a ‘with’ experience.”
The New Interpreter’s Bible’s take of this Commandment it thus: “…it points to the recognition that sexuality is enormously wondrous & enormously dangerous. The wonder of sexuality is available only if it is practiced respectfully & under discipline. The danger of sexuality is that it is capable of evoking desires that are destructive of a person & of communal relations. In its fullest interpretation, the command against adultery envisions covenantal relations of mutuality that are genuinely life-giving, nurturing, enhancing, & respectful. Such a notion of long-term trust is treated as almost passe` in a narcissistic society preoccupied with individual freedom & satisfaction.”
Sounds like our society, does it not? Especially with the ‘me too’ and ‘times up’ movements currently finding roots & growing.
Being dishonest or manipulative is disrespectful of one’s partner, whoever that partner is.
Mt. 5:27, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Many of you may remember the uproar caused by then president Jimmy Carter who stated in an interview in Playboy magazine, “ We are taught not to judge other people. I wouldn’t condemn someone who looks on a woman with lust…I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”
The point being, Physical adultery is a great transgression because it breaks the covenant of marriage. Mental adultery destroys the soul just the same.
We are not saying that we cannot admire a good-looking man or woman. I love looking at the handiwork of our Creator as much as the next person. AS the song goes, I’m a girl watcher…and it doesn’t matter, male or female…I like to watch people.
But watch is different than lust….we are to appreciate the God-given beauty of the individual, as well as the other fine examples of beauty found in the world.
Eric Butterworth reminds us that with adultery we lose our sense of integrity.
It’s not just about the sex act. It’s about prostituting ourselves, adulterating our true worth, selling ourselves short of the real meaning of life that can only be found in the total communion of inner-centered love.
The emphasis has always been placed on the ‘sin’ or the physical acts & personal relationships. The sin is not in the act, but in the thought that leads to the act.
This can be a wake-up call of an in-balance in your life, and in your relationship.
Journalist, George Leonard tells us, “extramarital affairs or the pursuit of recreational sex are far more likely to be associated with the avoidance of change.”
After the novelty of the affair has faded, the stories told, & the ego has been temporarily satisfied, the real transformation can take place. But this is where we often fear that deeper connection and turn to yet another bed. Anything rather than see ourselves clearly & start to do something about it.
And that goes into a different topic for discussion at another time…change.
The whole reason for change is whenever we see less than the Christ in another or in ourselves. We are committing adultery…because we fail to see the divine depth in all people, all the time.
This Commandment could read…You shall not adulterate reality by judging by appearances & thus by adding on something other than Truth
When we say something about ourself or another that is less than true morally or spiritually. This is adultery; this is selling yourself short with feelings of inferiority.
Anything less than the Truth of our oneness in the One is adultery
Remember: we always have a choice