Saturday, January 3, 2009

More on Adultery

I received a note from someone wanting to discuss the adultery issue further, and I have permission to post our conversation here:

ANONYMOUS: Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions related to your opinion about divorce and remarriage? With the understanding that my intent is not in any way to argue with you, because I do not disagree with your position. I just have further questions and I would really like your opinion.

OWEN TEW: No problem. Ask away.

A: Okay.

I have been told before that if you have sex with someone, you have been married in God's eyes.

Do you agree?

OT: I don't know. I base my theological opinions solely on Scripture and there is no Scripture that specifically states that if you have sexual relations with someone you've married them. Someone might infer it from some particular passage, but it is not irrefutable, so I personally do not judge someone to have been married if they are not a virgin. However, in my constant quest to "be on the safe side" I am looking in my own search for a wife for someone who has either never had sex or who is a widow.

A: There are several references (although I don't know scripture and verse off-hand) that state that a man "went unto" a woman, and took her as his wife. There doesn't appear to be a marriage ceremony other the consummation in several references.

And there is a reference in the NT where a harlot approaches Jesus ... and... my memory is very fuzzy, but Jesus asks her something regarding her husband, and she tells him she has no husband, and he tells her, in so many words, that she is not being truthful. That passage is the major one that the pastor used to back up his belief that if you had sex you were considered married in God's eyes.

Are you familiar with that passage?

As far as what you should do if you are in your second (or third, or whatever) marriage before you realize the folly of your ways, I do not believe that continuing to stay in a sexual relationship with the spouse would be to continue sinning. I think at the time of forgiveness, you are forgiven for all of your past sins, as if they never occured. It is not a sin to be married, therefore, if you are married at the time of forgiveness, you can only be guilty of adultery if you commit adultery after that point... and adultery would not include having sex with your spouse.

BUT ... that last paragraph was just my two cents worth, and probably not necessary...

BUT... I have another question.

I have been taught before, that under the new law laid out by Jesus in the NT, if you even think about committing the sin, in God's eyes, it is af you have committed that sin. What is your opinion on that topic?

OT: I'm familiar with the passages you quoted, and they are part of my reason for wanting to marry only another virgin (for safety's sake). One instance you talked about is when Rebecka is brought to Isaac: He takes her into his mother's tent and "marries" her. Obviously, he had sex with her, but when you are living in the middle of the desert as a nomad how else do you marry? There's no religious of civil official around to perform a ceremony, so you lie with you wife and boom, you're married. As a result, I don't think the proof is conclusive.

As far as Jesus saying that if you look upon a woman lustfully you've committed adultery in your heart, well, that's true; that's exactly what he said -- and exactly what he meant. And what he was getting across is that when you look down on a person who has committed adultery you are no better yourself if you've ever lusted, so don't look down on others for their sins, and don't lust either. But he isn't saying that if you've "committed adultery in your heart" anyway you might as well just go ahead and do the act too.

A: I do not blame you at all for wanting to marry a virgin, for safety's sake, as well as several other reasons. Do not take my discussion to mean that you are wrong or too "careful" to do so. I do not disagree. My discussion here is more to help me sort out my life, not yours.

As far as the discussion about looking upon a woman lustfully... I did not mean that if you have lustful thoughts that you might as well commit the act since you are already guilty. I guess my question is more along the lines of... if you look upon a woman (or a man) lustfully, even if you don't act on that lust... have you committed adultery?

OT: If you lust after someone, have you committed adultery? Yes and no. Yes, according to Jesus' example, but no, you haven't really had sex with them. I don't think it would be a case for marital counseling if someone looked at another person besides his/her spouse and felt lustful. He/she should strive not to do so, though. However, if he/she is a porn addict or doesn't even try to control his lust and is constantly looking at other people lustfully I'd say that person needs counseling.

A: Based strictly on what Jesus said, if someone looks upon someone who is not their spouse and thinks lustful thoughts, is that person and adulterer in God's eyes? I am not concerned with whether he/she is an adulterer in the opinion of anyone but God.

OT: Taken literally, he/she has committed adultery. I don't know about the female brain, but under this rule every man who's ever lived, save Jesus himself, is an adulterer. It's possible Jesus is using hyperbole to make a point. Since I can't get inside Jesus' brain I can't give you any better answer than that.

A: I take it literally. Which causes me much grief because... as you said... the Bible clearly states that adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Which is where I become confused.

What are we to do if we find ourselves lusting?

Ask forgiveness every time?

But how many times are we allowed to ask forgiveness for the same sin? At what point are we disobeying the commandment to repent and sin no more?

OT: I suppose you could. As far ask asking forgiveness for the same sin, Jesus commanded us to forgive our brother "seventy times seven" times per day, which I feel is safe to say was a euphemism for endlessly (since the question was whether it should be done "up to seven times" as the religious officials taught.) I don't think he'd hold himself to a lower standard.

But I'd never consider myself an adulterer because I caught myself lusting from time to time. And remember that a temptation isn't an act of sin. One might see someone and feel inclined to lust, but then realize they shouldn't. Lingering on the thought and having a fantasy in your head -- that's what Jesus is talking about, I think.

A: Good points. I really appreciate the respectful discussion.

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