Sexuality - Adultery

My husband and I are currently seeing a Christian marriage counselor. And my husband has habitually viewed pornography for two years. Our counselor has said that my husband has broken our marriage covenant. He very strongly disagrees with that and does not believe that he has broken the covenant. He bases that on Matthew 5, I think, where the Lord is talking about lusting after a woman and committing adultery in your heart and I just wondered what your thoughts are on that.

Well, you’re bringing up two points. Number one, what are our thoughts on what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5 about a man lusting and committing adultery? And the other point you’re bringing up is whether what your husband has done constitutes breaking his covenant with you? And my view of that is as wrong as it is that your husband has given in to pornography for the last two years, that does not constitute that he has broken his covenant with you because he still wants to be married to you and he still wants to get the counseling and get the help that is needed in the situation.

So, no, he’s not broken the covenant with you. The only time that he would break his covenant with you is if he divorced you in his heart first and then legally. Legal is just the paperwork that catches up with what people have already done in their heart. So, it doesn’t sound to me, from what you’ve said, that he has not done that. It sounds to me like he has an emotional crisis in his life, an emotional problem and weakness in his life, and he needs to continue to get counseling to overcome the problem with lust that he has. That’s what he needs. He needs mercy and he needs help with the area of lust in his life. He needs tough love sometimes with that, but he needs a plan of how to break free from lust. That’s number one.

Number two, what are my thoughts on what Jesus meant when He said that if a man lusts after a woman in his heart, he’s already committed adultery. I believe what that means is if that man is fantasizing about that woman and allows that fantasy to play in his mind and to occupy his mind, then he has committed adultery in his heart. But I don’t believe that if a man recognizes that a woman is beautiful that he’s committed adultery in his heart. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that lust and recognition are the same thing. I believe that lust means that you are going to do whatever you can do to have that thing or to have that and to fantasize about that and to roll that over in your heart and mind continually. Then yes, there is adultery that is taking place.

But it is in the heart. And Jesus was simply internalizing the gospel and saying, “Look, what’s in our heart is what matters more than just what we do on the outside because what we do on the inside is eventually going to show up on the outside.” He was trying to get people to realize that Christianity is a heart issue, not just a behavior issue. And that’s why the focus was on the heart.

But I’m not excusing your husband at all. I’m not saying pornography isn’t lust and it isn’t sin – it is. It’s wrong and he needs to break free from it, but he needs counseling to break free from it. Again, I don’t know enough about your situation, so I don’t want you to just take my word as the only word, but compare it to the Word of God. If your husband wants to stay with you and wants to work it out and wants to deal with the problems in his life, then he hasn’t broken his marriage covenant to you.

If your husband is caught up in pornography and refuses to change and he’s not adhering to the counsel that’s being given to him and he’s not following the counsel that’s being given to him, you don’t need to subject yourself to that. I would consider a time of separation if it’s at that point – and I can’t read your mind or read your heart. But I know that a lot of people think that “the only way I can get out of this marriage is if he committed adultery against me or if she has committed adultery against me.” And if the marriage is that bad where you have to find a reason like that, then obviously there are worse problems in a marriage sometimes and we need to address those problems and see if those can be fixed. See if you can find it in your heart to truly love your husband again. And if you can, then praise God. And if you can’t, then God would understand that and He is a merciful God and He is the God of second chances.

I’m not encouraging you to do that. I’m just saying that God would understand that if it comes to that. But you should go through intense counseling before it would have to come to that. I understand the pain that you must feel and we want to help you and God wants to help you. You don’t have to make your husband out to be the bad guy for you to get the healing that you need in your heart. And God will heal you. If God can heal inside the marriage, He will and if he has to take you out of the marriage to heal you, He will because God loves the people in a marriage more than He loves the institution of the marriage. He loves the institution of the marriage, but He loves the people more and He loves you more.