patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

victims of adultery

It’s astonishing to me how quickly after establishing the big matters of faith—the nature of true contentment, the call for us to be salt and light to one another, the role of scriptural commands in salvation—Jesus turns in his mountainside sermon to what seem like fine points of Christian life. I guess what he’s saying is, “Here’s how to live in general. Now let’s look at how that’s likely to play out in the day-to-day.”

First he takes up our tendency, from earliest childhood, to get mad at one another. For this oh-so-common everyday offense, reconciliation is the only answer. Being salt and light to one another.

Then he takes up how we make victims of those around us through our infidelities to those whom we ourselves committed to love and cherish—specifically through lust, adultery, and divorce. Jesus tells the crowds around him that “anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32 NIV).

This is, nowadays, hard teaching. So many of us are divorced or have married someone who is divorced. And we live in such a hypersexual society that lust, adultery, and divorce seem too normal to be all that serious. Close to half of all high school students in the U.S. report having had sexual intercourse. Our society’s various lusts—for porn, for hook ups, relationships outside of our primary relationships—are fueled and facilitated by the immediacy of the internet. Porn statistics are all over the place; suffice it to say it’s ubiquitous. Somewhere between thirty to sixty percent of all married Americans will be unfaithful at some time in their marriage. Half of Americans who marry these days divorce. Infidelity of all kinds is so much a part of our culture that we don’t even see it. And yet, according to Jesus, though, infidelity is serious business—so much so that even just fantasizing about it merits being “thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29).

Even in Jesus’ own times—judging from the consternation Jesus’ listeners seem to display on the subject of divorce, though, as well as from accounts like that of the woman with five husbands that Jesus meets at the well—infidelity was probably pretty widespread and normal-seeming. Jesus speaks, then as now, right past the normalcy of infidelity to the problem at its root: it makes victims of everyone concerned, not only the adulterer’s spouse but the person who may later marries him or her and most especially the children of all the marriages involved, who are not only emotionally and relationally but economically damaged by divorce. Even adult children of divorced are very often deeply distraught when their parents divorce.

These victims, I think Jesus is saying, are the ones we need to be concerned with, not ourselves and our desires—or, as we like to say these days, our needs. He doesn’t offer any sort of counsel on infidelity beyond that word victim. Think of your victims, he seems to be preaching.



  1. During a time of struggle in my marriage I started moving towards divorce. As I did, it became abundantly apparent that there would be serious collateral damage and that I would have to work hard to make my "needs" the highest priority if I was going to successfully make my way to the end of my marriage. My needs. MY needs. I was closing my eyes to everyone else's. I am glad that I saw that. Things aren’t perfect now - they probably won’t ever be. My expectations are different for my wife and I serve a different master. Instead of serving her and expecting her to notice, I serve God by serving her - he notices. That has made all the different in the world.

  2. I love you, GerryLarrybrother. Just wanted to tell you that. :)