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Have You Committed Adultery Lately?

Rick-CoppleGuest Post: Rick Copple.

The condition of your marital relationship indicates the health of your relationship with God.

Nowhere in Scriptures is this more clearly stated than in Eph. 5:21-33. I included verse 21, which says, “subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ,” because that context is so often missed in discussing these verses. It isn’t just about wives submitting to husbands, but husbands to wives by having a martyr-love for them, even as Christ did. Because we miss that context, we miss the bigger picture Paul is giving us. The state of our marital love often reflects our love, or lack of love, for God.

Paul makes this link clear when he writes,

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church.” (Eph 5:31-32 ASV)

Note, I’m not claiming there is a one-to-one relationship between the two. Sometimes the image doesn’t clearly reflect the reality of the other. Yet when we fail to nurture the love for our spouse, there is a high likelihood we are also failing in our love for God. Usually to the point of adultery.

It is why the prophets frequently related Israel’s broken relationship with God via the imagery of adultery. (Jer. 5:7, Hos 4:13)

  • It is why adultery made God’s top ten sins list. (Ex 20:14)
  • It is why the first two commandments focus on what it means to commit adultery against God. (Ex 20:3-6)
  • It is why Jesus linked loving God in tandem with loving one’s neighbor. (Mrk 12:28-31)

Marriage is the ultimate loving another as one’s self. (Eph 5:28)

The result of adultery, like sin in general, is death. God graphically illustrates this in His law:

“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Lev 20:10 ASV)

While all sin is sin, few have the consequences of adultery. It is a sin against one’s own soul (Pro 6:32) and body. (1Cor 6:18)

I knew these concepts, had heard sermons on these verses, and understood what they meant. However, they were abstract to me. Abstract, that is, until it became reality. Until I found myself in God’s shoes, realizing my wife had played the harlot. My wife had committed adultery. Those abstract verses came alive. I felt the shock, the loss of trust, the dissolving of our relationship, the grief that I might have lost her and our marriage.

I tasted the heartbreak of God when we sin.

I also experienced the work and joy of encouraging the redemption and healing of my wife, my marriage, and myself over the past 25 months. By God’s grace, I’ve gone from devastated to grateful, a shattered marriage to hopeful, fearful to contentment.

So much so we wrote a book about our experience and what we learned through the process, study, and interaction with many other in our shoes, titled Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair. So few people who’ve gone through this are willing to talk about it. So few understand its impact on a relationship until it happens to them. Consequently, so few understand their adultery against God: following after other “gods,” offering them our attention, service, and obedience.

So what have I learned in going through this experience about my relationship with God?

The quality of the relationship does not cause an affair. A common view is if an affair happens, there must be problems in the marriage that caused it. This is no truer than blaming a rape on the clothing a woman wears. Issues may increase the temptation to have an affair, but they cannot justify this destructive approach chosen by the unfaithful spouse. Truth is, happy marriages can experience affairs and bad marriages can avoid them. Likewise, because God didn’t heal, help financially, (insert desired outcome) like you expected, it doesn’t justify committing adultery on Him. Committed Christians are tempted by this sin as well as the not-so-committed.

Quantity and quality time focused on the relationship heals and prevents adultery. To get quality, you have to put in the quantity. While marital problems are not to blame for affairs, addressing them is part of the solution. The key issue is what God accused the church at Ephesus of doing: losing its first love. (Rev. 2:4) If you think back to your early dating days, what did you do? You spent every available moment with each other. Once married, responsibilities dulled that excitement to the point you interact sporadically, and even then about children, chores, and finances. The route to restoring passion in a relationship is by spending enough time together that you can find those quality moments that spark romance, which acts like oil to the marital engine.

Likewise, how much time do we spend with God? How often do we worship? Pray? Read Scriptures? How we spend our discretionary time denotes what is important to us. If you were to map out your time spent each week, where would your spouse rank? How high would God be in your life?

Transparency builds intimacy. Once trust is destroyed in an affair, the only way to rebuild that is by the unfaithful spouse being totally transparent. Intimacy is built on trust in the other person. To rebuild that trust, one must open up their lives and hide nothing. After months and years of not getting blindsided by another affair, the hurt spouse can begin to feel safe trusting again. If part of the unfaithful spouse’s life remains hidden, there is no room for trust to grow.

The Apostle James exhorts us to confess our sins. (Jas 5:16) God wants us to humble ourselves before Him. (2Chr 7:14) When we hold part of our life as off limits to God or our spouse, we are refusing to share our life with them. What we keep hidden cannot heal. Instead it festers and becomes infected. Intimacy is destroyed.

Forgiveness is available, but consequences must be dealt with. One of my earliest thoughts upon discovering my wife’s affair was the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:3-11) Jesus was teaching when the scribes and Pharisees brought before Him a woman caught in adultery. According to the Law, they said, she should be put to death, usually by stoning.

So Jesus tells them that he who is without sin can cast the first stone. One by one, they leave. Then Jesus does something totally unexpected. He, being God, was the only one there who could have cast the first stone, since He was without sin. He, being God, gave the law that the adulterer and adulteress should be put to death. Instead, He chooses to forgive her. How could I, a sinner, not forgive my wife? I did on the day I discovered it.

Yet, that is not all Jesus did. He also tells her to go and sin no more. The consequences of adultery is inward, against one’s own self and body. (1Cor 6:18) It has created festering wounds on both those involved and the hurt spouse and family. The task of ensuring that one sins no more is active work to establish healthy boundaries, address character deficiencies that allowed one to chose this path, delve into the lack of spiritual health that contributed to this vulnerability. One should do what it takes to heal the wound instead of ignoring it and hoping it goes away.

God forgives. He frees us from the death sin would bind us into. But He also expects us to “turn from our wicked ways” as well. (2Chr 7:14) We still must heal from our adultery against God if we expect to foster a healthy relationship with Him.

The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then to love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27) Have you committed adultery against God lately?

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You can find more information about Rick’s book, Healing Infidelity: How to Build a Vibrant Marriage After an Affair and a support forum HERE. Rick Copple also writes science fiction and fantasy under the pen name R. L. Copple. You can find out more at his author website, and his blog.

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Shay West July 17, 2013, 8:02 AM

    Boy did this post hit home for me. My ex husband cheated on me twice. When I found out about the first, that was bad enough. Then a year after that he admitted he had done it a second time. It nearly destroyed me. He blamed me for not giving him what he needed so he had to go elsewhere. We sought Christian counseling and tried to work through it by going to various classes (Love and Respect, etc) and praying together at night. Rather than bring us together it tore us apart. My ex read into the Scripture and classes that I wasn’t being obedient and submissive. He has left our marriage twice over things he deemed I was doing that weren’t Scriptural (not wanting kids and not agreeing to a decision he wanted to make). The second time I let him leave without a fight. I’ve been told that it’s my duty as a woman to submit and minister to him but I couldn’t stay in a marriage like that. Reconciliation after adultery can only happen when the spouse that did the offense accepts blame rather than pointing to the spouse or some other reason (he even went so far as to say it wasn’t his fault because Satan knows his weakness).

    I admit I’m envious of you and your wife truly being able to grow closer to each other and to God through this trial. But if it is God’s will, I will meet someone someday that truly knows the meaning of unconditional love and won’t use my beloved Scriptures as a weapon against me. Then I will finally enjoy what God wants marriage to be 🙂

    • Jill July 17, 2013, 9:05 AM

      I think this is an unfortunate side-effect of the church’s obsession with the doctrine of female submission. It unduly places man in a Christlike position. Even our traditional wedding vows revolve around a couple of verses from Ephesians to the exclusion of any other picture of marriage. If a man could truly sacrifice himself for his wife as Jesus did for the church, a woman would not need Jesus. And, in fact, I know people who believe that women are sanctified by their husbands. But it also incorporates wife-blaming. If something is wrong with the marriage, it’s the woman’s fault because she’s not submitting enough or serving enough. I’m frankly tired of it, and I’m sorry it happened to you. If one more deeply arrogant Christian man defines his relationship to his wife as Christlike sacrifice, I think I’m going to scream. Hey, men! You aren’t little Christs! Okay?! You are the fallen bride, too. Ultimately, that’s the conclusion Rick Copple came to and the reason he forgave his wife. He isn’t w/o sin, as Jesus was.

      Thank you, Rick, for placing the emphasis where it belongs. Marital infidelity is imagery that God uses for us going after other gods. But it’s an image that encompasses both men and women as adulterers.

      • R. L. Copple July 17, 2013, 7:58 PM

        Jill, you said: “Ultimately, that’s the conclusion Rick Copple came to and the reason he forgave his wife. He isn’t w/o sin, as Jesus was.”

        How did you know? lol. I actually felt like Jesus said to me that I’m in no shape to be casting any stones. Of course, my forgiveness would mean little in the healing of the marriage is she hadn’t done what she did. But I was concerned for her spiritual health and I didn’t want to get in the way of her dealing with the consequences by not being supportive.

        But forgiving doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the consequences of what’s happened. Too many think that by forgiving, you’re saying, “Ah well, we’ll pretend this never happened and go on with life as normal.” What that does is fail to address the personal issues that allowed this to happen, making it much more likely for a repeat performance down the road.

        You’ve inspired me to write a blog post on my blog on the Ephesians passage, on how it *should* be interpreted. I would bet those verses are among the top abused verses in Scripture. Pun intended.

        • Jill July 17, 2013, 10:30 PM

          Sorry, I didn’t mean to make a conclusion for you. I thought that was what you had said–that you couldn’t cast stones because you aren’t without sin (in the same way Jesus was). I thought I was just reiterating your words. My bad, and my apologies if it came across otherwise.

          • Jill July 17, 2013, 10:44 PM

            In any case, one more try (this was really bugging me). I didn’t mean for my comment to sound presumptuous. My brain makes leaps when I’m writing quick comments. I was trying to connect the Ephesians passage to what you had said in your post about you, as a husband, NOT being like Jesus: “He, being God, was the only one there who could have cast the first stone, since He was without sin. He, being God, gave the law that the adulterer and adulteress should be put to death. Instead, He chooses to forgive her. How could I, a sinner, not forgive my wife?”

          • R. L. Copple July 17, 2013, 11:27 PM

            Jill, you took me wrong. That is part of what I was saying. Your deductions were valid, like you were reading my mind. I figured, if Jesus who is without sin, refused to cast the first stone, how can I who am sinful do so?

            I was commenting on your insightfulness, not being offended. Sorry it didn’t come across as I intended.

    • R. L. Copple July 17, 2013, 7:47 PM


      What you experienced is blame shifting, aided by perverting the Scriptures to excuse sin. I don’t think God is very pleased to have His Word twisted like that.

      One of the main reasons our marriage healed from her infidelity is because she didn’t blameshift. Unfortunately, this is too common a reaction from unfaithful spouses. God gave the route to healing in 2 Chron. 7:14: Humble yourself, repent, turn from your wicked ways, then comes forgiveness and healing. Without that happening, healing/salvation (same word in the Greek) is impossible.

      Marital problems don’t cause infidelity. I use the following analogy in my book. Your house is on fire. You have a bucket of water and a bucket of gasoline side-by-side. Which do you use? The gasoline may be more exciting, but it certainly isn’t going to fix the problem. Having an affair to address a perceived marital problem doesn’t fix it, it accelerates the problem, like throwing gas on a fire.

      The real reason they cheat is an issue in their own life and history. Pointing to marital issues usually comes after the fact in order to justify what they did and avoid addressing their own personal issues.

      I hope you find someone who can live a truly Scriptural marriage of unconditional love as well.

      • Shay West July 20, 2013, 7:34 AM

        Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to reading your blog post about Ephesians 🙂

  • R. L. Copple July 17, 2013, 10:12 AM

    Thanks, Shey and Jill for sharing your experiences. Unfortunately, I’m going to be out of pocket until this evening, but I’ll be back to respond to comments more fully.

  • Teddi Deppner July 17, 2013, 2:52 PM

    Rick, your guest post here is so timely for me! I’ve been looking to revive my passion for God lately, and it has been a challenge in some ways.

    It seemed such a mystery at first, “Where did the passion go?” I loved God, I was still committed to Him. But I could tell by looking at my life and checking my inner life (thoughts, emotions) that I wasn’t acting the same towards Him as I used to. What had happened? What was the difference? And how could I get that “first love” back?

    Although I’ve heard marriage and our relationship with God talked about for decades, today is the first time I truly “saw” it the way you’re saying it, “The state of our marital love often reflects our love, or lack of love, for God.” I could finally SEE the trends and similarities in my relationship with my husband and my relationship with God. And they really were following a similar pattern!

    I love this. While I was already seeking and proactively working to improve both my relationship with my husband and my relationship with God, I feel like I have something firm to grasp onto now. The connection, the parallel, between the two relationships illuminates both.

    Thank you, Rick, for sharing your story with the world. And thank you, Mike, for opening your site to guest bloggers!

    • R. L. Copple July 17, 2013, 8:20 PM

      Teddi, I recall as a teen, getting up at 4 am to read and do devotionals. It was the only quite time in the house usually. But I look back at that dedication, every morning, and wonder where it went. Like a lot of relationships, we get focused on the day to day activities and let slip a focus on our passion to God and others.

      What many people don’t think about is a new relationship has a spark of its own, “naturally.” You experience this in dating. It is where the feeling of “falling in love” comes from. It seems to happen naturally, without any effort or work.

      However, that infatuation doesn’t last. The couple gets married, the honeymoon is over, now it is time to work, pay the bills, raise the kids, and the marriage ends up taking a back seat to all the demands. Without that quantity time, we lose the quality time. The passion dies.

      Then when someone new becomes a viable opportunity, infatuation flares up again, for someone who is not one’s spouse. For those who think these feelings encompass what love is, suddenly think, “I love this man/woman!”

      What they should know, however, is that infatuation is merely a “love starter” as wadded paper or lighter fluid is for a fire. If you don’t keep putting logs on it, don’t nurture the fire, it will die from neglect. While this doesn’t cause affairs, it certainly opens up the temptation wider to have one.

      A good book to read on this is “His Needs, Her Needs.” Similar concept as “The Five Love Languages” but presented in a different way.

      I don’t recall at what point, but several months into dealing with my wife’s affair, it dawned on me that I had been doing the same thing to God. Quality time with Him happened less and less over the years as the quantity went down. Writing this post out helped me to cement my thoughts on these issues and where I need to improve.

  • R. L. Copple July 18, 2013, 2:24 AM

    Okay, I’ve gone and done it. My blog post on the meaning of Eph. 5:21-33. I’ve ironically titled it, “Submit, Woman!”


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