Is It Adultery?

Are oral sex and other forms of “non-penetration” sexual play Adultery? It’s a question that’s been discussed at great length in our society, ever since the day when “Monica and Bill” were front-page news.

Some people think that adultery isn’t such a big deal, but to me, adultery is serious business. The breaching of a sacred vow is a serious integrity issue, as far as I’m concerned. A person who would betray that sacred trust could just as easily betray their country– and I take both very seriously.

One popular opinion that many Americans hold is that if there is no direct sexual intercourse, then it’s not adultery. To this way of thinking, it’s acceptable to grab, grope, touch, look, leer, kiss—virtually anything, as long as you don’t “do it.” Phone sex and cyber-sex are fine alternatives according to this group. After all, you’re not “really” doing anything, so it’s not adultery, right?


To me, examining the issue from a Biblical perspective, “adultery” covers a much broader definition. In fact, this is one place where I’m just plain narrow-minded. As far as I’m concerned, it’s quite possible—and quite common, I might add—for people to commit adultery with all of their zippers in the full upright and locked position, without removing a single article of clothing. In fact, you can even commit adultery with someone without their knowledge.

In Matthew 5:26-27, Jesus stated it plainly:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

(By the way, ladies, this applies to you, too!)

From His statement in these verses, we can plainly see that Jesus understood adultery to be far more than just a physical offense. Adultery is primarily a sin of the heart. After your heart falls, the rest just follows t he leader. Quite literally, ANY activity that “connects” you—either physically, emotionally, or spiritually — with someone in the same way that you connect with your spouse can qualify as adultery. Even fantasies of adulterous activity are “over the line.” You can literally commit adultery in your heart and mind without a single moment of physical contact.

Does this mean that we should never have friends of the opposite sex? Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the closest friends in my entire life have been female. In fact, the very best friend I’ve ever had in my whole life is female. She became my wife. Sharon and I both have good friends of the opposite sex, and both of us understand the fine line that we dare not cross. We have developed a very simple and straightforward policy that I encourage any married person to adopt as an operating standard:

In simple terms, if you’re doing something that you wouldn’t want your spouse to see, you’re out of line. That includes images on your computer screen, email messages, phone calls, and reading materials. Any relationship, professional or personal, that you wouldn’t want to fully disclose to your spouse in every detail is a problem—and perhaps a bomb waiting to explode.

It’s easy to sit back and congratulate ourselves for our deep spirituality, concluding that a person of such profound spiritual maturity certainly would never fall prey to so fleshly a sin as adultery. It’s also one of the most dangerous positions in which we can find ourselves—as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “…let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” There is not a single one of us—man or woman—who is invincible in this regard. We need to keep ourselves constantly on guard for the first signs of problems, and in the words of that great theologian Barney Fife, “Nip it in the bud.”

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4 Responses to Is It Adultery?

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I have, and always will, consider the value of marriage in the highest. We truly need to educate others, and more importantly, our children!

  2. I really needed this, thank you. I happened onto your case studies by accident….or so I thought….I have been through such a battle in the last year concerning just that subject. My husband had ” feelings” for another woman and I found out so much more after he left. My heart torn to pieces, my faith tested, but God has comforted me so much. I just wished that my ex and the new lady in his life had read this…..Please pray for each of us. Thanks.

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