Adultery: What Would Jesus Do?

So, it's official: Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé. We already knew this, but we didn't know this until Jay-Z confirmed it in his interview with the NY Times. Hearing the confirmation that Jay-Z did in fact cheat on Beyoncé made me stop to think about cheating—or what the Bible refers to as adultery—in a general sense. As I pondered the issue this past week, I started thinking on all the complexities and went searching for a Biblical answer. I'm not here to speculate on or judge their situation. However I do want to talk about the general question of staying versus leaving after cheating has occurred. As you'll see, this isn't a post on what people should do, just some thoughts I had has I pondered the question and read people's two cents about Beyoncé's decision online.

Introduction

So, it's official: Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé. We already knew this, but we didn't know this until Jay-Z confirmed it in his interview with the NY Times.[1] Pretty much every entertainment media outlet there is has reported on it, though I haven't really seen as much about it on social media (of course, I'm not that big on social media, so I might have just missed it). Despite not being a fan of either artist, I already knew about the elevator incident,[2] the implications of Beyoncé's album, Lemonade, and the implications of Jay-Z's responding album, 4:44. I can't imagine having such personal details about my life on display for the world to see...

Hearing the confirmation that Jay-Z did in fact cheat on Beyoncé made me stop to think about cheating—or what the Bible refers to as adultery—in a general sense. It's not that I've never thought about the issue; it's just that I've never thought about it from an adult perspective. As I pondered the issue this past week, I started thinking on all the complexities and went searching for a Biblical answer. Naturally, I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts.
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Anybody Can Be a Victim

The first thing that really caught my attention on the topic was the fact that people were saying "if Beyoncé can't keep a man from cheating, what hope do the rest of us have." Not only does the statement show how much we idolize people, it proves we don't really understand much about relationships.

Since the majority of us have never had a conversation with Beyoncé, we really don't know what she's like as a person. We don't really know what Jay-Z is like as person either. The reason people are shocked that someone would cheat on Beyoncé is not because they've kicked it with her and know she's a great person to be around, but because she's considered one of the sexiest women in the celebrity world and she's successful career-wise. Guess what, lots of gorgeous and successful celebrities have been cheated on: Halle Berry, Eva Longoria, Justin Timerblake, Jennifer Anniston, etc. Looks are not what makes a relationship successful. Compatibility, trust, communication, and compromise are the major players in any relationship. There are plenty of average looking people who have never been cheated on!

It also bothered me that the blame was some how placed on Beyoncé. Most of the sentences expressing the sentiment that if Beyoncé was getting cheated on, the rest of us were doomed, focused on Beyoncé. Whether Beyoncé is actually a diva who throws tantrums and acts like a brat or as sweet as can be, it was Jay-Z who made the decision the step out on her. Whether he believed he had reason or not, it was his decision to place himself in a compromising situation and that's all on him. Why don't people assume there's problems with the man when these sorts of things happen? After all, Jay-Z basically admits that he had problems within himself that had nothing to do with Beyoncé...

Would You Take Him Back?

But that's enough about them specifically. Like I said, I can't imagine having my personal business out there like that, so I'm not here to speculate on or judge their situation. However I do want to talk about the general question of staying versus leaving after cheating has occurred. As you'll see, this isn't a post on what people should do, just some thoughts I had has I pondered the question and read people's two cents about Beyoncé's decision online.

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Soroush Karimi
Some people say once a cheater, always a cheater, so you should leave. Others say you should do everything in your power to fight for your marriage. If you're of dating age, I'm sure you've thought about this even if you haven't been cheated on and posed a hypothetical answer. The first time I ever thought about this, I was in high school and I was team "once a cheater, always a cheater." By my early twenties, I at least knew there was a difference between emotional cheating versus physical cheating, but I was still convinced if I found out my hypothetical husband cheated, we were over. Now that I'm approaching 30, my view has become a little more moderate.

What's the Situation?

Every instance of cheating is a different situation. It could be a couple that's been married for 30 years, or a couple that's only been married 5 months. It could be a couple that has children together or a couple that doesn't have any children. Those children could be very young, teenagers, or out of the house. On top of that, it could have been purely physical or it could be emotional... People may decide to work it out for various reasons, and older me has realized, the decision may not be made simply based on what's best for the spouse who was cheated on, but based on the good of the children as well.

What's Biblical?

One of the reasons I had such a hardline stance on cheating in my teenage years and early twenties is because 1) I could only think in terms of boyfriends (I still believe a cheating boyfriend should automatically become an ex) and 2) the Bible is quite clear about adultery. Not committing adultery is one of the Ten Commandments for crying out loud! Plus, it's the only reason the Bible gives as an acceptable reason for divorce.

Interestingly, the Bible does not give us permission to divorce an abusive spouse. I would think physical and emotional abuse were more problematic than adultery. I've heard many people who've renounced their faith cite this interpretation of the Bible as one of those reasons. However, I believe that adultery isn't just physical and this is actually included in adultery.

Spiritual Meaning

Today, we really only talk about adultery as it relates to cheating in earthly relationships. However, the Bible often uses adultery to reference idolatry. God's people are often accused of committing whoredom and adultery when they turn away from God. Jesus said the following:
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.Matthew 19:9 KJV
In John's prophecy about the end of time, he says:
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.Revelation 17:3-5 KJV
Notice the similarities? The woman is filthy because she committed "fornication," just as the only way a divorce was permitted was in the case of "fornication." We generally translate fornication to sex, but the spiritual connotation in Revelation proves it isn't just referring to sex. James 4:4 and Mark 8:38 also refer to God's people as adulterous, suggesting we commit adultery with "the world." We cannot have sex with "the world," nor are these verses referring to people literally cheating on their spouses. These verses are referencing the people breaking the covenant we have with God!

Throughout the Bible, God uses a woman to symbolize His people; the most common example is the Bride of Christ. When the Israelites and the church are accused of fornication (or whoredom), it isn't because they've had sex with someone but because they broke the covenant. Here we see that simply breaking the covenant is grounds for adultery. In most weddings I've been to, the words "love" and "cherish" have appeared in the vows.[3] I don't consider abuse loving or cherishing but I digress, that isn't the point of this post. My point is that adultery is much more than sex outside of marriage and has a spiritual parallel.

Forgiveness

Have you ever committed spiritual adultery? Since spiritual adultery is breaking the covenant, whether something major like bowing to a pagan god or as tiny as a little white lie, we've all sinned—thus, we've all committed adultery. Yet, God hasn't quite divorced us. Imagine if God divorced the church the first time we committed adultery! There would be no salvation if this was the case.

What's interesting, however, is what it enables God to do. Jesus tells us to forgive our neighbor and often encourages us to think of it from the perspective of God forgiving us. Basically, I'm not perfect and I want God's forgiveness, which He gives. Since this is the model, I should be willing to forgive those who come to me in earnest for forgiveness. God forgives us time and time again until it's too late. When judgement arrives, those who have not chosen God will be divorced because they didn't keep the covenant (God is upholding His own law). Those who are divorced will be thrown in the lake of fire. God is waiting to the very last moment to expel the adulterers from His kingdom. At the end of time (or the end of our life, whichever comes first), if we haven't repented of our adultery, God will divorce us. So, while it's true that ultimately, God will not maintain His relationship with adulterers, we have to remember that at some point we all sin, which means we all commit adultery against God. With true repentance, He gives us another chance.

Conclusion

The human in me still doesn't think I could forgive someone for cheating—especially in a situation as public as Jay-Z and Beyoncé's; pride would definitely have me feeling some type of way. However, when I think about the forgiveness Jesus extends to us for essentially the same offense, I figure, there has to be a way to move on if both parties are willing. Ultimately, I respect whatever decision a couple makes for their relationship and I hope I, nor you, ever have to make these kinds decisions.

References

  1. Dean Baquet. "Jay-z Interview". New York Times. November 29, 2017
  2. Stephanie Petit. "JAY-Z and Solange’s Infamous Elevator Fight: Everything They — and Beyoncé — Have Said". People Magazine. August 22, 2017
  3. "Traditional Wedding Vows". My Wedding Vows; visited December 6, 2016
  4. Al Maxey. "What is Adultery In The Bible?". Grace Centered Magazine; visited December 6, 2017

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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