Adultery and the Road to Destruction

12 divorces. When I add together the divorces in the immediate families of me and my wife there have been twelve divorces. I have had a front row seat to the tragedy that divorce wreaks on those it touches. As a result every time I hear of a patient’s marriage ending my heart breaks. I mourn for the couple and I mourn for their children. Too often divorce is a direct result of sexual failing.

God made marriage and with it He made the family. It is the primary vehicle for religious instruction and training and it is designed to be representative of man’s relationship with God (Eph 5–6). As a result, God has a vested interest in healthy, intact families. Robust, godly families are the objective of the commandment against adultery. Adultery destroys families and is (understandably) hated by the God who created them.

To see the horrible consequences of adultery one need look no further than the story of the Israelite King David and the woman Bathsheba (2 Sam 11–12). David’s lust for another man’s wife led to adultery, murder, and ultimately the death of a child. As the years passed, David’s family was plagued by idolatry, immorality, incestuous rape, and sibling murder. David’s unfaithfulness in adultery weakened the foundations of his family––with devastating long-term effects.

From David’s story we learn about the roots of adultery as well. David’s sin was not a spontaneous act arising out of a chance encounter. Although he pursued Bathsheba only after he had unintentionally observed her bathing, the seeds of immorality had taken root many years earlier. A close look at the life of David reveals that his sin with Bathsheba was not the first time he had made a wrong decision about a woman. As with all sin, David’s adultery began with a wrong attitude of the heart. Just like David, if we do not avoid the attitudes and desires that can lead us astray, we will fail in our quest to live sexually pure lives.

The story of David’s relationships with women began many years prior to Bathsheba. When David killed the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Sam 17), he was promised the daughter of King Saul as his wife. Although the promised daughter was eventually given to another man, Saul ultimately gave his other daughter Michal to be David’s wife. David’s response to Saul’s offer of his daughter’s hand tells us much about David as a man. We see from the story that David was a humble man who did not consider himself worthy to be the king’s son-in-law. This initial attitude of believing himself unworthy of such a wife suggests David began with a healthy appreciation of the blessing that a wife is.

David’s attitude is well described in the text:

Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.’ They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.” (1 Sam 18:22–23)

At this point in David’s life he was a humble shepherd boy. Although he was adored by the people of Israel, who danced and sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” when David returned from killing Goliath (1 Sam 18:5–7), David refused to view himself as better than anyone else.

Unfortunately for David, this attitude did not last. Not long after David took Saul’s daughter Michal as his wife, Saul turned against David and tried to kill him. David and a small band of soldiers found themselves on the run from Saul and his men. They moved from place to place to avoid being captured and killed by King Saul. Eventually they arrived at a desert in a place called Maon. Near where they were staying lived a wealthy but unpleasant man by the name of Nabal. Nabal was married to Abigail, a beautiful and intelligent woman (1 Sam 25:3).

David sent men to Nabal and asked if he might give some blessing and aid to David and his men. Nabal responded to David in a rude and demeaning way:

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (1 Sam 25:10–11)

Nabal said of David something very similar to what David had said of himself a short while earlier. Nabal asked, “Who is this David?” Although David had once questioned his own worthiness when it came to marrying the king’s daughter, the events that followed show that the humble Who am I? David was gone. In his place was a man filled with a sense of importance and entitlement. Who am I? David had been replaced by How dare he talk to me that way! David. Nabal’s response was an insult to this new David, so David and his men took up arms and set off to avenge their impugned honor.

With vengeance in their hearts they approached the place where Nabal lived. It was their intent to kill not only Nabal, but also every man who worked for him. Only the wise intervention of Abigail prevented a terrible slaughter. She met David and his men while they were coming to attack, bringing food and gifts to appease David’s anger. Her thoughtful actions saved the life of her foolish husband and the lives of their servants as well.

Ten days after Abigail’s shrewd actions, Nabal died. The beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy Abigail was suddenly single and available––all of which certainly did not go unnoticed. Travelling with David were some 600 men. I have no doubt there was at least one single man among those serving David who would have loved to be blessed with such an amazing woman as a wife. As ecstatic as one of David’s men would have been to marry Abigail, none of them were given the chance. Even though he was already married, David decided that he deserved Abigail more than anyone else did. He took her as his second wife.

David had changed. He had gone from someone who felt he did not deserve a wife at all to someone who felt entitled to more than one. He had gone from someone who served others to someone who believed that others existed for him. Here, in his decision to take Abigail, we see the beginning of the attitude that led to his moral failure with Bathsheba. The act with Bathsheba revealed the culmination of the mindset that he was entitled to any woman he wanted. Instead of being a physical expression of the union of one man and one woman, for David sexual intimacy became about his own personal pleasure. He exchanged God’s beautiful plan of intimacy for irrational lust, a compulsion that led to his adultery with Bathsheba and the resultant devastating consequences.

It is my prayer that we all learn the lesson of David and take intentional steps to guard ourselves and protect our marriages. It is the greatest of all earthly endeavors.

- Bart 

This is the 5th in an 8 part series on Adultery, taken from my book Life Medicine, an exploration and application of the principles of the 10 Commandments. The book is available at Amazon. If you are interested in purchasing copies for your church or small group, please contact me through the site to get the books at cost. A small group study guide is linked from the book page on this site, and my sermon series on the book can me accessed on my vimeo page. 

The Beauty of Intimacy. Adultery Part 4

As harmful to the soul and psyche as premarital relations are, they pale in comparison to the damage of adultery. Adultery takes emotional havoc to an entirely different level. When someone has sex outside of a marriage, it is a betrayal of trust and intimacy unlike any other. When the marital bond of oneness comes undone, the consequences to families, children, and individuals are incredibly severe. When we understand the terrible damage done it is easy to understand why God included the prohibition against adultery in His Ten Commandments. It is exceptionally important.

Adultery’s damage can best be understood in the context of the beauty that God intended for marital intimacy. The more beautiful the object that is damaged the more tragic the loss. Graffiti on a bridge overpass is ugly; graffiti on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a catastrophe. All immorality is wrong and sinful, but when the masterpiece that is God’s plan for marital purity is ruined by the stain of adultery it isn’t just wrong, it’s a tragedy. The greatness of the tragedy of adultery, the violation of the marriage covenant, is profound evidence of the beauty God intended for marriage. Conversations with people who have known no other partner apart from their spouse confirm the beauty intended by God.

This exquisite quality is evident in the attitude towards sex I have seen in faithful men. The sexual desires in men who have only been with their wives are not merely desires for sexual release or for a physical act. There is much more to it than the mere pursuit of pleasure; faithful men desire their wives. They don’t want to be with just any woman; they want to be with the woman God gave them. This directed desire creates a powerful bond of attachment. When these men think about sex, they think about their wives, as they have no other frame of reference. This passion for their wives is intensely personal and private. By default their wives become their sexual ideal. This is truly a wonderful thing.

The strong attachment that results from undiluted intimacy has additional benefits beyond physical union. When a man’s wife is truly his and a woman’s husband is truly hers it gives rise to strong nurturing and protective emotions. As years of faithfulness accumulate, the emotion grows. I have seen this in my own marriage. I can honestly say that after twenty-six years of marriage my love for and connection to my wife has grown with every passing day. Love truly blooms with faithfulness over time. As clichéd as it may be, our relationship is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.

Country singer John Berry echoes my feelings in his song, “Your Love Amazes Me”: 

I’ve seen the seven wonders of the world, 

I’ve seen the beauty of diamonds and pearls

But they mean nothing baby Your love amazes me

I’ve seen a sunset that would make you cry

And colors of the rainbow, reaching across the sky

The moon in all its phases, Your love amazes me

It was, is, and always will be God’s desire that one man and one woman share such a bond. This physical and emotional bond of unity is the foundation of marriage and, by extension, the foundation of the family.

- Bart

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks who share these posts with their friends. This post is the 4th in an eight part series on adultery taken from my book, Life Medicine. The book is available through this site and on A small group study guide can be accessed through this site as well. I am in the process of uploading a video series on the book to my vimeo page,

Sex, Marriage and Waiting. Adultery Part 3

I have seen in my medical practice the emotional pain that results from broken sexual relationships. The damage I have observed supports the idea that the sexual bond is exclusively designed for marriage. The oneness of flesh created by a sexual union is meant to endure. When couples break the bond much harm is done. 

I have seen many young people troubled with the intense emotional pain brought on by the loss of a girlfriend or boyfriend who had been their first sexual partner. When they are mature enough to be able to express themselves they have told me of the profound sense of loss. Deep sadness came when they realized that they had given away something they had hoped to share with their life’s one true love. Many times they had given themselves away in the belief that they had found their soul mate, only to discover they had lost something they could never get back. 

One particular young lady comes to mind. I can recall the visit when she shared her grief. Then twenty-one, she had just been dumped by her boyfriend of the previous five years. He had been her first and only sexual relationship. To her, that was something special. She had thought that he was her life mate, her future husband; yet now that was clearly not to be. She felt used, shamed, and less womanly. She thought she was damaged and less attractive to other men. She had fallen into a major depression that was worsened by an associated anxiety disorder. She required significant doses of medication just to function each day. 

The medication helped her get through each day, but it did not deaden the emotional pain she was suffering. Her emotional pain left her with two choices. She could acknowledge the truth that she had made a serious error in giving herself to her boyfriend, or she could tell herself that sexual relationships were normal when dating and therefore no cause for shame. She knew the truth and was struggling with its ramifications. She had made a grave mistake, one that could be forgiven yet never undone. 

This young woman’s loss illustrates the seriousness of sexual immorality prior to marriage. When people give themselves away before marriage, their future marriage loses a degree of intimacy. A secret told to many people isn’t really a secret, and when the most intimate act known to mankind is shared with many people, it loses some of its power. I have seen many promiscuous individuals who were later unable to sustain intimate relationships. The powerful bond intended by God was so weakened by casual sex that it appeared lost forever. Waiting is important!

- Bart

This is the third of an 8-part weekly series on Adultery and Faithfulness taken from my book on the 10 Commandments, Life Medicine. You can have the future posts delivered straight to you email inbox by subscribing to the blog, just click on the link. I am currently teaching through the book at a church in Fullerton. Videos of the lessons are available at my vimeo page, . 


Broken Thinking, Broken Life

Adulterous affairs on business trips. Relapses into addiction after years of sobriety. Violent explosions of temper. I have seen so many seemingly good people inexplicably find themselves in situations they swore they would never be in. In each circumstance the question was the same, “What happened?” The answer was, and is, never a single thing. Tragic outcomes are typically the result of a string of bad decisions.

I think of the married patient who came to be fearful he had contracted an STD from a sexual encounter with a stranger he met in a hotel bar while on a business trip. “I made a bad decision,” was his initial explanation.

“You made a lot of bad decisions,” was my reply, “You had to run through a lot of stop signs on the road before you crashed.” I reviewed with him the bad choices. He chose to go to the bar, to make eye contact with the woman and to buy her a drink and engage in conversation. No one forced him to complement her appearance or to go to her hotel room. He could have, and should have, said “No,” so many times. Just one “No,” may have been the difference between marriage and divorce.

As we talked I thought about how his fall did not begin with wrong action but with wrong thinking. Each bad decision was preceded by a bad thought. Thoughts such as “What is wrong with buying a drink?” or “It is just harmless conversation” were the first signs of danger. I wondered if the first wrong thoughts were negative ones about his wife. Were there unchecked feelings of resentment or dissatisfaction with her appearance that led to his wandering eye? Had he quit thinking of her as a gift from God? Had she become "just another woman" in his mind?

As I look back on my life I can see that every foolish or destructive act I have made was preceded by erroneous thinking. This seems to be the fate of all mankind. We are all plagued with self-deception. The process is described in the New Testament-

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 NLT

James description of the process points us to the solution. When we allow our wrong desires to take hold, when we allow them to simmer unchecked, wrong action is the natural consequence. It is hard to stop the locomotive once it reaches full speed. We need to challenge our thinking and reject the thoughts that lead us astray the moment they enter our minds, to make sure the train never leaves the station!

I know from experience that challenging negative thoughts is worth the effort. Intentionally rejecting negative thoughts about my wife has allowed a deep love and appreciation to grow and flourish, a love and appreciation that causes all other women to pale in comparison. Progress has been slower when it comes to anger, but I have seen that the more I intentionally reject demeaning or degrading thoughts about others and the more I consider them to be children of God the kinder and more patient I become. It seems that when I fight the battle at the level of thought that bad behavior is far less likely.

Which leads to the question- What is going on in your head?

-          Bart

You can listen to more on this topic on the sermons page. I expound on the topic in Part 1 of the series, “A Disease Called Sin.” If you would like me to come and speak to your church event or function, I can be reached on the Contact page. I can also be followed on twitter @bartbarrettmd, or on Facebook at Bart Barrett, MD.