I remember being over-familiar with the opposite sex whilst in a relationship and, understandably, my significant other wasn’t too impressed. In a later relationship, I happened to be on the receiving end and it made me feel uneasy. In both cases, neither of us had done anything particularly bad. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the other from doubting the other’s insistence that it was ‘just nothing.’ I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to find out that nothing was in fact something.
“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
Chapter 7 ends with the Pharisees visibly annoyed that Jesus hasn’t been arrested for claims which they deem to be wild and completely unfounded (John 7:40-52). The final verse is an unassuming line: “and everyone went to his own house” (7:53). It seems that for the Pharisees at least, they returned home to think of fresh ways to trap Jesus and guarantee His arrest. They were diligent enough to regroup the next day, catch a woman in the act of adultery, and bring her to the temple for the morning service (v2-3). They didn’t waste any time!
Pointing out the sins of others doesn’t diminish your own.
The Pharisees interrupt Jesus’ teaching to ask whether He agrees with the punishment for adultery as outlined by Moses. They assumed that there were only two possible answers and either would yield an unfavourable outcome for Jesus. However, true to form, in verse 7 Jesus throws a curveball that has them stumped; they weren’t expected Him to highlight their sinfulness. This was about her. He’s gracious enough to stoop down and continue writing after He makes His statement to enable them to slither away unnoticed. Unsurprisingly, none of them could cast a stone because they’ve all sinned; thus, the woman escapes unscathed.
The charge that Jesus gives to the woman as she leaves is a clear indication that He regards her actions as sinful even though she’s been relieved of stoning. I found many parts of this story interesting, but I was most intrigued about the practicalities of applying what Jesus had said. Her actions had given her husband grounds for a divorce (Matthew 19:9), but we don’t get to find out how the rest of the story plays out.
His charge was an invitation to renounce sin altogether, but there was a special emphasis on her most recent sin: adultery.
How long had the affair been going on for? Did she feel remorseful, or just relieved that she hadn’t been stoned? What was the underlying cause? There are many questions we could ask, but the most important one is the latter. People don’t cheat ‘by accident.’ For her to commit this sin no more, she’d need to establish what caused her to sin in the first place. To focus on the symptom (cheating) whilst neglecting the cause leaves the door open to future occurrences.
Let’s assume that she’d ascertained the underlying cause(s) and she’d discussed this with her husband. In addition, we’ll also assume her husband forgave her and she never had any other extra-marital liaisons. Despite all of this, an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of her actions is that she would also have to overcome the comparison that is now present in her mind between her husband and the other man. She’d also have to fight the temptation to revert back to cheating to deal with her issues. Moreover, the public humiliation inflicted by the Pharisees also meant that everyone was aware of her actions.
Not repeating a sin is great. Not committing it in the first place is even better.
Of all the things she’d have to rebuild in her marriage, trust is undoubtedly the most difficult. Trust that when her husband speaks to the opposite sex he’s not actively looking for an opportunity to exact revenge. Trust that when his wife says she’s happy she genuinely means it. Human beings can forgive… but we lack God’s ability to forget. Yes, she could sin no more. However, neither of them would forget the sin that had such a devastating impact on their marriage.
I hope that none of you cheat or are cheated on. In courtship, you have the option to simply walk away instead of inflicting hurt. In marriage, you’re together until death*. In either case, don’t let things get so bad you feel that cheating is the only answer. Consider the following:
- Speak up/listen – cheating was a temporary solution to a permanent problem. I’m not convinced that she spoke up enough, or that he listened enough. Cheating shouldn’t ever be on your lists of methods to deal with relationship issues.
- Be empathetic – if you’ve decided to forgive, don’t be that person who keeps bringing up the issue at every opportunity. Imagine if you were the one in need of forgiveness. Trust is hard to rebuild, but make a genuine effort if you’ve decided to stay.
- Maintain boundaries – being too open with people of the opposite sex can cause you let your guard down and unintentionally catch feelings.
- Don’t turn a blind eye – just because they do other things which are loving, doesn’t excuse their cheating. You deserve to be loved properly, not halfheartedly.
- Be logical – sin is enticing. Rarely do we indulge in things that aren’t rewarding. If you say ‘yes,’ where is this going to lead? Are you willing to dismantle everything you’ve worked hard to build in your relationship?
*As mentioned earlier, divorce due to adultery is permissible (Matthew 19:9).
Nobody deserves to feel like they weren’t good enough or they were dispensable. Resorting to cheating instead of solid communication will never have positive consequences… even if you aren’t caught. Be fair and walk away if you no longer see a future together. Love doesn’t seek its own.