Monday, February 02, 2009

Adultery and Small Group Discussion

Our Sunday School class is working through Adam Hamilton's Making Love Last a Lifetime: Biblical Perspectives on Love, Marriage, and Sex from Abingdon Press. We're using the curriculum as a jumping off point, as we're spending at least a month on each of what are designed to be single lessons.

Today, we started talking about infidelity. We'll spend more time on that in the future. (And this means more challenging lesson preparation for me, since the room was unusually quiet during the discussion part of the class; this is obviously awkward stuff to talk about, at least until I got people started on an I knew this couple who path.)

It's interesting. The Bible is pretty clear:
Matthew 5:27-28 (NIV)
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Without getting too bogged down in specific understandings of the Biblical use of "adultery," this raised an interesting discussion.

If adultery was going to happen in your marriage, would you consider your spouse having specific, lustful thoughts about someone else roughly the same threat to your marriage as if your spouse had sexual interactions with that same person?

I'd prefer that neither occur, of course. Matters of sin and being right with God aside, however, I'd prefer dealing with the issues raised by my partner thinking inappropriate lustful thoughts than a physical sexual affair, or even an emotional (but nonsexual) betrayal. That seemed to be the group consensus, as well.

Our discussion fell within the context of working to keep our own marriages healthy and vibrant over time. The thrust (my apologies; I couldn't resist) of this lesson was a frank (I could go on and on) discussion about how putting oneself in situations that increase contact with someone who is an inappropriate titillation or temptation is harmful and dangerous, even if "nothing is going to happen."

The group seemed to get that, but it's a difficult thing, thinking of "harmless" interactions and fantasies - however inappropriate - as being wrong, dangerous, and harmful. Perhaps next time we should engage in a little role-playing. Hah hah.


Sara said...

You're bad! That sounds like an interesting discussion. We had a similar discussion way back in the day when my husband and I were in a young married class at a Southern Baptist church. It was awkward at first, but once we got going, it was a really honest discussion. With all the media attention on sex, it does make this passage more difficult now.

Anonymous said...

And it's not only about the relationship between spouses. I was almost, unknowingly, "the other woman." The loss of self-respect I experienced when I realized that the man I had trusted had used me that way was immense. Was Jesus saying that lustful thoughts were not only a sin against God and the spouse but also against the object of the fantasy?

Sarahlynn said...

Sara, yes, and my apologies for the horrible innuendos!

Anonymous, betrayal is terribly destructive, isn't it? Devastating.

There's a lot of interesting discussion out there about what "adultery" means in a Biblical context: is it all sexual thoughts? Just "lustful" thoughts that objectify another person? Or more specifically only specific fantasies about having sex with another man's wife?

I don't feel qualified to weigh in on that debate, and I don't know how much my opinion is worth. But if I were to answer your question, I'd say yes, to objectify someone else is sinful and harmful to the objectified person.