I’ve been reading Hosea 1-4 this morning and thinking more about why we all struggle with adultery, at least adultery of the mind and the heart. As we study through the commandments at church, part of the challenge in the message on the 7th commandment is to convince everyone that they have broken the 7th commandment even if they have never laid a hand on someone who is not their spouse. Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 5 that our desires and thoughts betray us as we desire to have something and someone else other than our spouse in marriage.
As I meditate on that issue and read through Hosea 4, I am again confronted with the why. Why does Gomer, who has been pursued by Hosea, go back to her adulterous ways? Why does Judah, who has been relentlessly pursued by Yahweh, go back consistently to her adulterous ways?
It seems to me that the issue is the desire we have to seek pleasure outside of real relationship because real relationships take work and challenge us to be forgiving. I think of all the men and women I’ve talked to over the years who have been unfaithful and how often the underlying issue has been the broken relationship with their spouse that leads them to believe that sexual fulfillment outside of their marriage relationship is better. The challenge (it seems to me) with faithfulness to one person over a long period of time is that once you get to really know somebody, you realize that they are just as broken and sinful as you are. In order to pursue them relationally, you have to serve them, sacrifice for them, and ultimately learn to regularly forgive them. This is a LOT of work. Why not just find that sexual pleasure from a picture on a screen or a person you don’t really know so that you don’t have to get into the mess of relationship? We always foolishly think that the “grass is greener on the other side.”
This seems to be the warning of Proverbs 5 & 7 – that the ways of the harlot make her seem to offer something that is better and easier to have than the hard work of the marriage relationship. But in the end, she leads to death, leading us to the slaughter. God is not foolish – He knows what He is talking about when He commands our faithfulness in marriage. He is protecting us from the lie we tell ourselves about the easier pleasure we will receive from the harlot. It is easier but not better, life-taking not life-giving! We can get the pleasure quickly, but it leads to death – our death and the destruction of the people and relationships we really care about.
To me, this is where the gospel comes in. The gospel empowers us and frees us to do the hard work of faithfulness inside a long-term relationship. Because Jesus has been the faithful spouse that we need (He forgives us and loves us and pursues us relentlessly), He changes our hearts toward our spouses. He empowers us to KNOW our spouses and all their faults and flaws and sin issues and to still LOVE them faithfully – to do the hard work of forgiving them regularly. I think marriage is the closest human relationship we have for understanding what it is like for God to relate to us (Paul makes this point explicitly in Ephesians 5). He knows us intimately, loves us faithfully, and forgives us regularly. If we believe that, then we will offer forgiveness to our spouses and seek pleasure in their arms, not in the arms of another.
This is one issue when it comes to our struggle with sexual sin (there are many more). But these are just thoughts in my mind this morning about the sin beneath the sin of sexual unfaithfulness – our unwillingness to forgive our spouses and patiently, relentlessly pursue them as God has done for us in Christ.