Adultery, infidelity, cheating, is wrong. It is sin. Full stop. Jesus tells us today that engaging in it means you are on the path to hell. And it starts long before it becomes obvious. That also means it starts long before it’s too late to turn back.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28
There’s something about lust that can never be satisfied.
“Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst.” – Frederick Buechner
This word for lust is the same word that was used for coveting in the 10th commandment that says “You shall not covet”. And we all know that coveting is not a desire that can really be satisfied is it? When you want, you can always want more. When you are discontent, you can never really be content.
It’s the same with lust. Jesus isn’t talking about healthy, normal sexual desire here. Jesus isn’t trying to neuter us of our God given desire. He’s using a particular word here. And Buechner unfolds it perfectly. It’s a craving that can never be satisfied, and one that will kill you if you try.
Jesus isn’t condemning sexual desire. That’s important to know. God made us as sexual beings. It isn’t the desire that’s the problem. It’s the direction of it, the object of the desire. Desire within a marriage is exactly where it is supposed to be.
But when the desire God gives us gets pointed in the wrong direction, it gets us in trouble.
Why? Why is Jesus so concerned with your desires, your thoughts?
What harm can this lust, cause when it is toward someone who is not your spouse if it’s only in your heads?
What is it about looking that messes people up so badly?
Where you look is where you’ll go.
Don’t believe me?
Try this little experiment later.
Get on a bike and ride down the street. But instead of looking forward, focus all of your attention on a parked car on the side. But make sure to wear a helmet. And maybe make sure your neighbors aren’t outside. Because 9 times out of 10, you will crash right into it.
Where you look is where you go.
Which is why lust is so dangerous.
How dangerous? Look at what Jesus says next:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30
Woah. Tear our your eye? Obviously, Jesus doesn’t want any of us to remove any of our eyes or appendages. Because everyone sins, and if we followed this teaching literally, we would look like a pretty rough crowd as Christians. But notice what he is saying about the importance of looking.
If your right eye is looking where it shouldn’t, that is so dangerous you shouldn’t even use that eye anymore.
Because where you look is where you’ll go.
We do the same thing with all the ways that we mess ourselves up in life. We look at the wrong things and the wrong people, and we end up going toward them. That’s why it’s so true that cheating isn’t just one mistake. It’s a whole series of mistakes. And the first mistake is looking with desire in the wrong direction.
What if instead, you looked at your wife with desire, and wanted her? What if instead you looked at your husband and wanted him? You don’t have to be desire-less. Just direct your desires where they belong.
Look where you want to go.
Look towards your family, towards your marriage, towards the life God wants for you.
Thoughts have this way of becoming words, and words become actions, and actions become habits, and habits become character become forever. So start at the beginning.
Start with your thoughts. Start with where your thoughts want you to look.
Sometimes you might feel like you can’t look where you need to go because of your relationship is struggling. If it’s hard for you to look where you should, deal with that.
Talk to a counselor or a pastor. If we can’t help, we will set you up with someone who can. . Noticing where you are looking is the first step.
Getting help before you ride headfirst into a parked car is the second.
For many reading this, this topic is especially painful because it has personally hurt you. For those of you who have had a partner who wasn’t faithful, the church exists to support you. Because your partner’s infidelity is in no way your fault.
You didn’t deserve that.
You are enough. Church should be a place where we can support one another through things that are difficult to talk about. Because Jesus talked about them.
If you are married to one person, but thinking about someone else, you are on the path of adultery. If you’re early on that path, it’s simple to turn around. All you need to do is pray. Confess to God that you want to repent. And then repent. Turn around. Because where you look is where you’ll go.
If you are married to one person, but currently flirting with someone else, saying things to them that should only be said to your spouse, you are on the path of adultery. And it’s simple to turn around. First pray. Confess to God. Then repent. Turn around. But then you need to confess to someone else. Maybe it’s a pastor. Maybe it’s a friend. Or a counselor. Maybe it’s even your spouse. But you have to stop. Where you look is where you go.
If you are married to one person, and you have a physical relationship with someone else. Or you have a physical relationship with someone who is married. You are really far down on the path of adultery. But it’s still not too late to turn around. Stop. Repent. Confess to God. Confess to your spouse.
Where you look is where you go. So look where you’re supposed to look.
Church, we need to be the kind of community that supports each other. To support those who have been hurt by infidelity. To support one another in our marriages and relationships.
Church should be the place where we call each other to account, on behalf of each others spouses. Where we can ask each other difficult questions. And where we can point one another to look toward Jesus.
About the Author
David Collins is the co-pastor of Maitland Presbyterian Church near Orlando, FL. Find him on Twitter @davidrcollins