When Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, he probably understood the standard they set would be hard for folks to maintain. That’s never really changed—and contemporary culture’s technology makes it even easier to go astray under the guise of being "discreet."
For example, this article from the Valentine’s Day edition of "USA Today" online, highlights Web sites that specialize in the business of adultery. Ashley Madison, along with similar sites, allow married individuals to create private profiles that can be viewed by other married individuals. The idea is that those who need "more" than their marriages provide can find a "discreet" partner for everything from talking about troubles to sexual relationships.
While the Ashley Madison’s founder (who compares setting up extramarital relationships to a sports agent finding international teams for his client) claims his site is helping to save marriages, most of the experts quoted in the article disagree. As one noted,
This idea that you can sneak around and still have this wonderful life is really problematic. Where is the personal accountability? Where is the respect for your relationship? Not every couple is meant to stay together, but ideally you exit a relationship with the same respect as you entered into one.
As I read the article, I was struck by four thoughts . . .
1. Adultery Web sites cater to the lack of restraint that marks our "me-centered" humanity. One customer who used Ashley Madison to cheat on her husband and meet her current husband, providing a telling quote:
I was lonely in my marriage. I wasn’t thinking long-term. I didn’t want to hurt my family. I was just thinking of me at the time, and because their promotions are all about the discreetness of it, I felt no one was ever going to know.
"I was just thinking of me at the time." That could be a battle cry for many individuals in our microwave society that downplays the benefits of delayed gratification and working hard to find solutions.
2. The idea that affairs actually benefit marriages is built on faulty logic and hypocrisy. The woman quoted above eventually destroyed her first marriage. Instead of strengthening that marriage, her husband was deeply wounded and "kicked her out." That doesn’t sound like "adultery as marriage enrichment" worked well in that situation.
Likewise, Ashley Madison’s founder and his spouse categorically state that they would never cheat on each other. His wife said, "We wouldn’t do it to each other, but we can’t judge how somebody wants to live their lives." But that really does beg an important question: If extramarital affairs are so helpful, why the aversion in their own lives? Apparently, their marriage is strong enough that adultery isn’t necessary, but other marriages don’t have the same potential.
3. The issue is not just adultery. It’s the health of current marriages. As one expert noted, "There’s a bigger social issue going on—people aren’t taking care of their marriages." As believers, we can (and should) stand against the anything-goes message of sites like Ashley Madison. At the same time, we have to do all we can as individuals and churches to strengthen the foundations of the marriages around us.
4. There are theological considerations both adultery facilitators and the experts quoted in the article ignore. At its very essence, adultery is wrong because it violates God’s way of doing things. Regardless of the pretty packages in which we might wrap sin, it’s still ugly and it still wrecks lives. God’s Word does not change, and that has to be our primary filter as Christ followers.
While not every believer is called to marriage, those of us who are have a responsibility to glorify God through our relationships. And, for those of us with children, we have the added responsibility of modeling healthy marriage before our kids. Marriage is hard work, but it is important work.
Much too important to let our culture determine what defines success or failure.