Editor's note: This is part eight in a series on the Ten Commandments. This column discusses the seventh commandment: "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14).
For many people, this commandment is the more difficult to obey.
The human sex drive is powerful. With many men and women sharing the workplace, resistance to members of the opposite sex can seem to be overwhelming. The desire to love and to be loved is strong too. If someone "falls in love" with someone other than one's spouse, it takes great effort not to commit adultery.
If a troubled marriage is added to the equation, adultery is almost a sure thing to happen.
How did adultery make it to the Ten Commandments? Because it's indispensable to family life and to stability of society. The building block of civilization is the family. Anything that threatens the family is prohibited in the Bible. Adultery is one of those examples.
Adultery separates parents. Without parents, societies mores are much less apt to be passed on to subsequent generations.
Commitment to spouses makes parents more responsible. Family is the best provider of economic security to women, children and even men. Married men both make and save more income and are less apt to spend time on valueless pursuits. Nothing comes close to the family in giving children a stable and secure childhood.
The following shows how adultery threatens family. For one thing, sex with someone other than a person's spouse can all too easily lead to the husband and wife separating. Adultery often leads to divorce. Further, it can lead to pregnancy, then to the birth of a child, who may begin life without a married father and mother, each committed to each other and to the child.
If adultery doesn't demolish a family, it can do it great harm -- especially when it continues as an ongoing practice. Aside from the sense of betrayal and distrust it causes, it means the partner having an affair lives a fraudulent life. When a married parent is having an affair, his or her thoughts tend to constantly be on the person with which he or she having an affair and about how to deceive the spouse.
The commandment forbidding adultery doesn't come with an asterisk saying adultery is tolerable if both spouses agree to it -- an "open marriage". Spouses involved in an affair with the permission from their marital partners may not be hurting their spouse's feelings, but are harming the convention of marriage and their children, if they have children. The protection of the family, even above spouse, may be the reason for the commandment.
Jay Craig of Shelbina, Mo., has worked with Shiloh Christian Children's Ranch for nearly 40 years. He's a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Craig attended Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo. He can be contacted by email to email@example.com.