Most people in the United States and British-descended nations will say that adultery is wrong. But their actions tell a different story. What is behind this double-standard, and what effect will it have on your nation—or even on you?
Millions around the world commit adultery or fornication with no remorse. Even government officials, religious leaders, top businessmen, sports figures and entertainment icons acknowledge their adulterous lifestyles. Will God judge our nations for such immorality?
Is adultery OK? When asked, most people will admit that adultery is wrong. But many, though they say that adultery is wrong, condone it or practice it themselves! Some even practice "situation ethics"—they believe that it is OK to commit adultery under certain circumstances.
"In general, the value system of most Americans is quite conservative on adultery, with four out of five of those interviewed saying that extramarital sex is always wrong and only a handful saying it is not wrong at all" (Gallup Poll News Service, June 13, 1998). Americans disapprove of adultery. But the picture is more complicated. "Americans resist workplace or military sanctions against employees who have such affairs, unless the relationship involves a person of superior rank or position, and a subordinate." And "49 percent think there should be no rules against adultery in the armed forces" (ibid.). We want to call adultery OK for some people and not for others. Incredible! We practice double standards, multiple standards or no standards at all!
But there is one Source who sets a universal standard for all human beings; a Source who knows our nature and our weaknesses. The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, knows human nature; He described the natural, unconverted hearts of human beings: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19).
Jesus made it plain that adultery and fornication are always evil and sinful. Yet while a recent survey showed that 80 percent of Americans agree that extramarital sex is always wrong, actions do not always match words. Reporter Celia Hall, writing in the London Daily Telegraph, observed: "British men and women are the most adulterous in Europe, but Americans top the list… The study in 14 countries found that 42 percent of Britons, compared to 22 percent of Spaniards, 36 percent of French and 38 percent of Italians, admitted to having more than one relationship at a time. But… half of the Americans questioned said they were unfaithful." Half of the Americans interviewed admitted to adultery!
We may think that we can get away with adultery and immorality, but the Apostle Paul knew otherwise. He wrote: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7–8).
We will reap corruption and divine punishment, if we insist on sowing immorality, adultery and unfaithfulness. The family is the foundation for any society. When the family institution fractures and deteriorates, the whole society and nation is affected. Historians have analyzed the decline and fall of the ancient Roman Empire. Observing the decline in character and morality that contributed to the Empire's demise, one historian wrote: "Added to this initial cause of family disruption [that is, the increasing absence of traveling businessmen from their families] was the consequent easy attitude to the marriage tie, the increasing frequency of divorce, and the growing freedom and laxity in women's morals, all of which ended in a loosening of the old family unity in which the best in Roman character had its roots" (Ancient Education and Today, E. B. Castle, p. 119).
How long will our western civilization survive? Are we going the way of Rome? The historian Jerome Carcopino quotes the Roman author Seneca who observed: "They divorce in order to remarry. They marry in order to divorce" (Daily Life in Ancient Rome, p. 100). Modern statistics agree. U.S. Census Bureau figures show that in 1997, 2.4 million marriages took place in the U.S., but that so did 1.2 million divorces! Other western nations report similar figures; Australia's Census Bureau recently reported an overall 46 percent divorce rate among Australians.
The Western world is declining in its character, its social stability and its morality. God will ultimately judge our nations, as He did the ancient nations of Judah and Israel. God's prophet Jeremiah had this to say: "For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right. 'For both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,' says the Lord. 'Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; for I will bring disaster on them, the year of their punishment,' says the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:10–12).
The Creator of the universe makes the rules; He is the great Lawgiver. We read: "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy" (James 4:12) Yet nations have the gall—the vanity—to legally redefine marriage in defiance of the higher court of Heaven, leading their citizens into sin and divine judgment. The Creator says that the nations are nothing in comparison to Him. "Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales.… All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless" (Isaiah 40:15, 17).
Almighty God indicts the leaders of those nations. He tells us that the false prophets were responsible for condoning and leading people into sin. God explains that the prophets "caused My people Israel to err [to go astray morally]" (Jeremiah 23:13). He continues: "Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah" (Jeremiah 23:14).
As Bible students know, God sent the Kingdom of Israel into Assyrian captivity, then later punished the Kingdom of Judah. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, and took the Jews into captivity. Jeremiah describes God's judgment. "Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury; a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly" (Jeremiah 23:19–20). Both Israel and Judah went into captivity because of their adultery, their profaneness, their wickedness and their idolatry. Unless we repent nationally and individually, our sinful nations will also go into captivity and face total destruction.
The leadership of a nation can make a difference in leading its citizens into adultery—or away from adultery. God will judge nations, states, cities and individuals for their lawlessness, rebellion, idolatry and immorality (cf. Psalm 110:6; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). Severe judgment and punishment will come upon all of us unless we repent and begin to obey the higher court of Heaven and the way of life revealed in your Bible.
The consequences of sexual immorality can be disastrous to a nation. The African nation of Zambia is a potent example, with 520,000 AIDS orphans—a number expected to double in the next 14 years. Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda responded to this crisis with an appeal to African leaders: "Many families in Africa are Christian. African leaders have to preach the Ten Commandments to them. They have to love neighbors and avoid adultery!" (Reuters, January 5, 2001). His advice was godly advice.
You might think that we would not even have to ask the question: "Is adultery OK?" But society has its own worldly values, its own evolutionary, anti-God ideas that, left to themselves, translate into carnal nature. When the wealthy and the powerful set an example of sexual licentiousness, immorality and infidelity, what are we to expect? The mass media promotes a powerful message of hedonism. Media critic Michael Medved, in a speech titled "Hollywood vs. America," observed that adultery is "chic, it's glamorous, it's desirable. That's exactly the long-term impact of television portrayals of sexual behavior and violence. Those portrayals redefine normal behavior. They redefine what is chic, glamorous and desirable. And even for those people who don't immediately run out and imitate that behavior… it changes our evaluation of not only what is accepted in our society but what is expected" (Center for the American Experiment, May 4, 1993).
The Apostle John described the state of the world this way: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). Or, as the King James Version states it: "The whole world lies in wickedness."
Are you being tempted? Are you being influenced by the deluge of sexual messages, examples and images in the media? Are you being persuaded by your peers to compromise your values, character and morality? Human beings will be overcome by temptation, unless they change their ways and look to the source of true values and life. Where do you get your values and standards: from television, from entertainers, from anti-religious education or from society at large? What is the real source of lasting values and of the right way of life?
The answer, of course, is the Word of God—the Bible. As the Apostle Peter wrote: "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Peter 1:24–25). This world is temporary, but the Bible shows us the way to eternal life. The Apostle John also commented on the transitory nature of physical existence: "And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).
But what is God's will? What are the eternal values that build godly character? Jesus Christ taught us to obey God's commandments. When a young man asked Jesus which commandments he should keep, Jesus answered by quoting from the Ten Commandments: "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 19:18–19).
Notice that two of these commandments directly relate to the preservation of the family. You must honor your parents, and remain faithful to your spouse! Adultery is always wrong. Infidelity to your spouse is sin. Fornication, or premarital sex, is always wrong! God is the Creator of sex; He commanded procreation as part of His plan for all humanity. But as the Bible plainly shows, sex outside of marriage is always wrong.
The Bible speaks positively about sex in marriage. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4). God intended sexual relations in marriage to strengthen the bond between husband and wife. As Jesus taught: "'A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'.… So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:5–6). Jesus was quoting from Genesis 2:24. Husband and wife are joined together and become one flesh.
But there is a negative—a caution—that we must consider. Hebrews 13:4 ends with a sobering warning that "fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Are you committing fornication? Are you committing adultery? If so, it is time to face up to the reality of your sin. God says that He will judge sinners. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). But you can repent and be forgiven (Acts 2:38). You can turn your life around, and begin to live by the values that bring true success and lasting joy!
Our society has degenerated to the point that millions are living in fornication and think nothing of it. Some think: "Since everybody's doing it, I guess I can too." Premarital sex-partnership has multiplied almost ten times since 1960. "Today, there are nearly 8.5 million Americans living with an opposite-sex partner, up from 878,000 in 1960. While for many, cohabitation is a temporary step toward marriage, there is a growing subsegment—currently estimated at between one million and two million people—who are living with significant others in very committed, long-term relationships. These numbers are expected to explode in the coming decades for a variety of reasons, from the changing demographics of cohabitors to society's waning reverence for marital bliss and waxing valuation of individual independence" (American Demographics, December, 2000, p. 58).
Many of these cohabitors have just gone along with the world and society. In our licentious society, some have probably never had occasion to think about the moral and spiritual implications of their lifestyle. But there is a God in Heaven who gave us unseen and immutable spiritual laws for our own benefit. When we transgress those laws, we face a severe penalty. That penalty will be eternal. Revelation 21:8 reveals that the "sexually immoral" will end up in a lake of fire. You must not let yourself go that way!
If you are an adulterer or a fornicator, what should you do? You should start seeking God. He is love, and He has given us the Bible—His "instruction manual" for life. You need to begin reading it. And you need to acknowledge your sins to God. Remember ancient King David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba. When the prophet Nathan confronted him in his sin, David admitted it and said: "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). But he also prayed a heartfelt prayer. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight; that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge" (Psalm 51:1–4). In your own words, you too can express before God your remorse for your sin, and your heartfelt desire for His forgiveness.
One of the Bible's greatest truths is that we can receive the incredible gift of forgiveness if we repent—if we turn our lives around and accept Christ's sacrifice as payment for our sins. The Bible tells of the scribes and Pharisees bringing to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. Would He accept their testimony, and condemn her to death by stoning? They wanted to trap Him by His answer. But He told them: "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8:7).
As they thought about Jesus' statement, the scribes and Pharisees were convicted of their own sins. "Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst" (v. 9). After they departed, Jesus gave forgiveness, but also gave the woman a simple command. "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'" (v. 10–11).
Jesus forgave, and He also insisted on repentance and change. True Christianity does not condone the practice of sexual immorality. But God gives us grace and forgiveness through Christ upon repentance. We must bring forth the fruits of repentance, as John the Baptist stated in Luke 3:8. We must be committed to changing our lives.
Many of the Corinthian converts made such a change. Paul wrote: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).
You can repent and be forgiven. You can change your life, if you want to. But you must seek God and His way of life. Confess your sins, your problems and your weaknesses to God—just as King David did in Psalm 51. And look forward to a new life, a changed life through the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, if current trends continue, sexual immorality will continue with all its aberrations and perversions. Is adultery OK? Millions wrongly think so. May God grant them repentance—for their sakes and the sake of our nations. And may God grant you His strength and His wisdom, so that you may stay faithful to your mate—and to God's Word—as you prepare yourself for a glorious future in tomorrow's world!