A Sad State of Affairs

The Drudge Report calls it a “Four-Star Circus.” It’s certainly like a national soap opera.

Of course, the “it” is the unfolding scandal of adultery and potential scandal of flirtatious e-mails, involving some of America’s top military and spy brass.

Being embroiled in adultery clearly is a betrayal to one’s family, and for a military leader to guard national secrets is clearly compromising, potentially to the country.

In reading some of the stories on the scandal on various news sites on the Internet, I have been struck by how many times they have enticing photos on the side. Here’s a story, blasting a leading general for committing adultery, with lustful photos in the margins. (They often have these enticing photos, regardless of the news item featured.)

Since this story is front and center and virtually inescapable, this gives us an opportunity to ruminate on the issue of adultery from a spiritual perspective.

When did the word “affair,” which sugar coats reality, replace the word adultery? Whenever it happened, it was before the 1980s.

I remember many years ago, when I interviewed Dr. J. Allan Peterson on an open-line radio show in the Chicago area to discuss his book on adultery, The Myth of the Greener Grass.

I asked for phone callers to ring up to discuss “adultery;” no one called. Dr. Peterson suggested during the commercial break that I ask for callers to discuss their “affairs;” suddenly the board lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree. This was on Christian radio no less.

We might envy our neighbors for their greener grass, but you should see their water bill!

Apparently, people today can’t “relate” to the old-fashioned, outmoded concept of “adultery” (sin), but they readily know what you’re talking about if it’s an affair (an indiscretion, a choice, nobody else’s business). But a rose is a rose by any other name; or perhaps I should say, a thorn is a thorn by any other name.

In Puritan times, one preacher charged another with having committed adultery. He accused him of “nefarious breachments of the 7th commandment,” a phrase not easily forgotten.

A lot of people thought that Jimmy Carter invented the phrase “lust in the heart.” But that concept comes from Jesus. The Lord said it’s bad enough to commit adultery, but also to commit adultery in the heart. And the Bible not only says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but also, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” which is adultery in the heart.

It is said that we don’t just break the Ten Commandments—we break ourselves by violating them.

Look at how a man or woman could work for decades, building up a positive reputation and a great record of service—all to be destroyed for a few minutes of pleasure?

In the classic art film, Koyaanisqatsi (meaning “life out of balance”), it’s amazing to see one building after another blown up—with the driving music of Philip Glass. It took years to build those buildings, and with a few explosives in just the right places, they collapse in seconds.

Zig Ziglar is right. He once said the only real failure in life is moral failure.

From a biblical perspective, lust battles with our very souls. I can think of people who claim they fell away from faith because there was some alleged deficiency with Christianity. But the reality is that it was lust that got the better of them.

For example, one famous anti-Christian humanist of today claims he left the church because God didn’t answer his prayers, yet at the same time he “had a girl in every port,” to quote TIME magazine. Church lady might say about his arguments against the faith, “How conveeeenient.”

Psychologists describe a condition known as “cognitive dissonance” which is a fancy way of describing the idea that you can’t hold two mutually exclusive beliefs at the same time for too long. Eventually, one will win out over the other.

While God forgives those who repent, there are still the consequences we pay for our sins.

But if you think you’re strong, watch out lest you fall. Author Ellen Williams once wrote, “If you are thinking to yourself, ‘An affair could never happen to me,’ you are in trouble. To believe that we are immune leaves us wide open and unprotected.”

Of course, this is not a new problem. David—the greatest king of ancient Israel (and also one of its leading generals)—fell prey to his own lusts. While he was forgiven, he paid a terrible price for it all, including a civil war against him from one of his own sons, Absalom.

I give Ben Franklin the last word (with the caveat that he apparently didn’t always follow his own advice): “Samson, for all his strong body, had a weak head, or he would not have laid it in a harlot’s lap.”