Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished. Excuses might be found for a thief who steals because he is starving. But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole, even if he has to sell everything in his house. But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself. He will be wounded and disgraced. His shame will never be erased. ~Proverbs 6:27-33 NLT
Two of the Ten Commandments warn against adultery. In Exodus 20:14 the word says, “You shall not commit adultery.” In verse 17 the scripture further states, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…”
In recent days, our thoughts have turned to several pastors we know personally who have fallen into the sin of adultery. We’ll spare you the sordid details. But each of them was married, with children. Each of them was a committed Christian, and well-respected by many. And each of them was certain he would not be found out.
What were the immediate consequences?
- Their church leadership ministries ended abruptly. Just as the scripture says, they destroyed themselves, in terms of their ministry careers.
- They were disgraced – again, as the word predicts – both professionally and personally.
- And of course, they were each wounded when they realized the tremendous impact of their behavior.
There is no “undo” button for adultery. You can be genuinely sorry for it and you can repent of it, but you cannot pretend it did not happen. Adultery and divorce also bring longer-term consequences. None of them are pleasant:
- Far beyond the destruction of their careers, each of these men found they had also destroyed their families. Only one of these situations ended in divorce. But even for the families that remained together, adultery caused terrible relational violence between the husband and wife, as well as between the husband and children.
- Imagine the personal disgrace you might suffer when members of your family learn that you have been unfaithful to your spouse. These men all broke a solemn vow before God that they would be faithful to their wives. Now, at every family gathering, they are looked upon differently.
- In addition to their own wounds, their wives and children have suffered unspeakably. There are few sins that cause more damage to a family than adultery. It will take a long time – perhaps a lifetime – to rebuild trust between the husband and wife when their intimacy has been broken. And rebuilding a relationship with children who feel betrayed isn’t much easier.
Is there forgiveness? Can restoration take place? Yes, Jesus can and will forgive anyone who commits adultery, and repents sincerely of his disobedience. The wounds caused by adultery, however, are severe. Even when they do eventually heal, scars will remain that remind one of the original wounds. And according to Proverbs 6:33, “his shame will never be erased.” A man may seek and receive forgiveness, but even that may not erase the serious damage that has been done to so many people.
Are you praying regularly for your Christian leaders? The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy. Pastors, their ministries, and their families are prime targets. Intercede for your pastor(s) today, asking the Lord to help them be men of integrity. Pray for transparency and accountability in their lives. Pray for them to avoid the hot coals and open flames of adultery.