The Seventh Commandment n1 is one of the most abused of all the Commandments, even by those who wouldn't dream of breaking the others. In many ways, the media may make adultery appear not only permissible but desirable. In light of the degradation to individuals and the devastation to families, why is this so?
n1 See Exodus 20:14.
Because of sensualism's deceit! Adultery promises love, pleasure, release from worries, escape from responsibilities, but ultimately delivers only bondage.
Is there a way for us to keep this commandment unbroken or, having broken it, to make amends? Yes, there is! It is the way of spiritual striving for higher enjoyment - the way of humility, repentance, reformation, forgiveness, serving.
Christ Jesus helped a woman about to be stoned for adultery. He first freed a crowd, crying for justice without mercy, from their self-righteous condemnation. Then he compassionately told the woman, ''Go, and sin no more.''n2 His meek and powerful action flowed from his understanding of God's unchanging love for His children, and of mankind's divine right to freedom from sin.
n2 John 8:11.
On another occasion Jesus taught, ''Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.'' n3
n3 Matthew 5:27,28.
It's our mental state - the desires of the heart - that has to be watched. ''Jesus knew that adultery is a crime, and mind is the criminal,'' n4 writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n4 Christian Healing, p.7.
Adulterous thought precedes adulterous acts. Self-deception, supported by sensuous reasoning, subtly plans and willfully works to obtain what it thinks it wants. This mesmerism of sensual intoxication is a delusion without substance or intelligence. It's not really pleasurable; it's degrading. Sensual gratification , like alcohol, may make the world momentarily seem rosy, but it's a poor substitute for bliss, for the consciousness of man's integrity and dignity. Only divine Truth and Love, God Himself, can uncover the delusion. The rod of Truth justly exposes error, while the staff of Love mercifully forgives sin by destroying it.
The carnal mind, the source of materialistic thinking, would defend what should be destroyed. It would justify one error with another - justify adultery by pointing to the faults of others: ''My wife is so....'' or ''My husband did....'' Distraught with a marriage partner, self-justification continues, ''I was attracted to someone else who was kind toward me.''
It may at times seem legitimate to justify misconduct by a spouse's failures or another's good qualities. Yet ultimately we all need to cultivate spiritual maturity, a deeper understanding of moral and spiritual law and of our own purity and self-completeness as God's likeness.
Since adultery is a mental crime, it is mastered by freeing thought from sensuality and irresponsibility with pure affection and spiritual maturity, cultivated through prayer. The freeing agent is the Christ, the universal, divine healing influence blessing humanity. The Christ exposes the delusions of sin. It brings error to light, not to hurt but to bless the individual. Christ mercifully dissolves self-indulgent ''me-ism'' with self-abnegation. The Christ reveals man as God's spiritual likeness - not a mortal subject to passion but an immortal governed by pure divine Spirit. The Christ reveals our capacity to watch, to be alert, so that adultery is stopped at the threshold of thought and is exposed as delusion.
Christly repentance and reform destroy the suffering that the breaking of divine law inevitably brings. Forgiveness is complete when sin no longer seems desirable - when no crime remains in consciousness and when our actions correspond. Purged from sin, we worship God anew in reverent and productive lives. How beautifully this is illustrated in the Gospel of Luke by the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears. And how gracious Jesus' response: ''Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.'' n5
n5 Luke 7:47.
Loving God and man, we find that our true manhood and womanhood is complete and satisfied in holy living, and the marriage covenant is fulfilled. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Keep thyself pure. I Timothy 5:22