Mike Novotny - What if There Was an Affair? - Part 1
I knew that I needed to talk about adultery with you when adultery kept happening among us. Not that long ago, here in our church tragically, there was a couple who is really active in our membership who fell into the sin of infidelity. And then, another couple fell into the sin of infidelity and then another, other couple fell into the sin of infidelity. Then another, other, other, other couple fell into the sin of infidelity. Then another couple on top of those other couples fell into the sin of infidelity. And when it happened, when I find my self as a pastor in the midst of all the hurt and the trauma and the heartache, I quickly realize three things. I realize something about them, I realize something about me, and I realize something about you.
I noticed that the people who committed adultery were not the Christmas and Easter only kind of worshippers. These weren't couples whose names I barely knew because they were barely here. These are people who are rooted and connected to the Word of God. People who had Bibles in their homes that didn't have dust on the covers. People who stood up here to take communion, with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Even though they were so connected to God and his word, this sin, still happens, still damaged their home, and they didn't know how to handle it. They didn't know how to process it, they didn't know what to do with it. They felt lost, desperate searching for resources, despite all of the Christian teaching in their background.
And then, there was me. Because to be honest, I really didn't know how to handle it either. I knew the very basics about the Bible, what the Bible says about sin and forgiveness, so I knew that Jesus died for sins like this, and that God has the power to restore this like this. But so often as I was trying to counsel these many different couples, I felt a little bit in over my head. I quite understand the emotions, and the reactions, and the details, and the timeline, and the situation. I didn't feel to be honest, pastorally prepared to give them my best and the Bible's best. And then, I noticed something about you. As this happened to couples among us, I noticed that many people in the church family got pulled into the middle of it and they didn't quite know what to do either.
When you're trying to love and serve the person who cheated and the person who is cheated on, when you're trying not to take sides, you're trying to help, you don't know what to say, you don't know, "Should I bring it up? Do they want me to talk about it? Do they want to just leave it alone and not bring it up cause they're having a good day"? I noticed that our church family who is involved, they didn't know how to handle this either. And when I saw all of that put together, what was happening to them, what was happening in me and what was happening among you, I realized, we need to talk. It's a tough topic we wish we didn't have to talk about, but we do need to talk about this. What does our Heavenly Father have to say about infidelity? I wish it didn't happen here in our marriages, in this church, but it does.
We live in a culture where one in five husbands will be unfaithful, and one in eight wives will do the same. And I mean sooner or later for all of us adultery will come into close contact with our lives. It might be you who cheats, it might be you who gets cheated on, it might be your son, your daughter, your best friend, your brother, your sister or someone in your small group. But sooner or later, it will happen. And I have a hunch as soon as I said today's topic, a bunch of you could relate. Maybe you're one of those couples right now who's dealing with infidelity. You got pushed into this ultra marathon that you didn't train for, you're trying to figure it out and communicate and talk about it or stop talking about it. You're trying to rebuild the trust that's broken and restore what sin has shattered. Maybe you feel good about your progress, maybe you feel stuck, maybe you're numb on autopilot. Your mind right now is somewhere else just to cope because the emotions are so strong. Or maybe when you hear this topic that's not you, at least not yet.
But the fact is, when you think about your relationship, you're not over the moon about it, you're a little bit sad, a little bit empty, maybe a little bit bitter. Maybe you don't feel like his priority anymore or she finds time for the kids and her phone, but she doesn't find time for you and your needs. And adultery doesn't seem like something you would do, but it's not so crazy that you can afford to not pay attention. Or maybe like me, you haven't experienced this personally, but you've seen it up close. And your best friend told you the secret that no one knew, or your sister's marriage took this big hit, and you want to be a good Christian. And you want to love people well, and you want to be tender when you have to be tender, and tough when you have to be tough, but you don't always know what to say or what to do. And so, whether you're there, or you were there, or you might be there, or you're just living with people who are there in this moment, I want to take a really big chunk of time to talk to you today with an open Bible about adultery.
Now, I want to warn you, if you're here live today I hope you have a cup of coffee in your hand. This will not be the shortest sermon you ever hear me preach. I promise to have you out of here by Tuesday. Alright, that's the only promise I'm going to make. Here's why. I realized when I thought about all these couples, that... To give you some like short couple... It just would not do it justice for the emotion of going through something like this. The petty trite advice is just unworthy for those of you who been through the trauma of infidelity. So, we're going to take a big chunk of time. Maybe you noticed we thinned out the rest of the service so you're not here forever and ever. But you're going to need to engage your brain, take lots of notes, stay sharp, because what God is about to say to you in his word is massively important.
Now, if you're watching at home and you're watching on TV, we didn't want to give you the shortened version either. You might not have realized this but to fit in the average 30 minute time slot, our sermons have to be edited down to about 25 minutes and that just doesn't seem like enough. And so, today and then next Sunday, if you're watching on TV you're going to get the whole version of this sermon, so you don't miss a word that God has to say to you. So today, I want to speak to couples, who's either dating, married, might be someday. And the next time we gather together, I want to talk to you about what to do if your friends cheat, or your family members cheat. How do you help them as a Christian?
Now, today I want to give you my outline right upfront. We're going to cover five big biblical points about adultery. Five things that you just need to know to be able to handle this in the best way. These come out of my deep research of every single Bible passage that touches on this topic and, here's what you should know. It's research into people who've been there.
So, if I have the chance to personally interview five separate people that I've ministered through the long journey of affair, I get to ask them, What helped? What hurt? What did I do as a pastor that was beneficial or not? What did our church family do to get you through this? What do you wish they would have known? I'm going to get to share all of their answers anonymously with you, so that you feel better equipped to deal with this issue. I've had a chance to share this message with a local Christian counselor who specializes. He's given me advice, tweaks, corrections, affirmation and so I hope what you get today and next Sunday is a robust Biblical look at what our Heavenly Father has to say abut adultery.
So, let's jump in. Five Biblical truths about adultery. Grab your pen. Let me hear it, let me see it. Grab your bulletin. Here's the very first thing that our Heavenly Father wants you to know about adultery, "Don't". Write it in caps lock. The word adultery shows up 55 times in the Bible from cover to cover, and the very first time it appears is a passage that a few of you have heard before. Time when Moses is up on a mountain, God is speaking to him and he's giving him the Ten Commandments. And the very first time the word adultery appears is in Exodus 20 where God through Moses says this, "You shall not commit adultery". Period. End of verse.
You shall not commit adultery. Five words, actually in the original Hebrew, you know how many words it is? Two. You committing adultery, one word in Hebrew, "No". So, the word in Hebrew is just the shortest word, Lo, L-O. You doing that, "No". End of verse. No subpoints, no asterisks, no exceptions. Not if you want to explore things in marriage, or if you're unhappy, or you don't feel like your husband... God's loving word to his dearly beloved children is, "Don't". Don't. You cannot, you must not, you shall not commit adultery.
One author that I read explains why. He says, "Choosing to commit adultery is like having a picnic with your closest family and friends". And you set up your nice little soft picnic blanket and get out your basket, and there is you and there is your spouse, if you have some kids, they're there with the string cheese and the oranges. Your mom and your dad and their mom and dad are there, even your closest friends, your pastor. All of you gathered, the sun is shining, there's not a cloud in the sky, except you've set up that picnic right in the middle of the interstate. And when that 18-wheeler comes around the corner, Pow! Everyone you love will be profoundly damaged. Might be exciting, might make you feel alive for the first time in a long, long time. But if you choose the path of adultery as Proverbs 5, 6 and 7 says, you will hurt more people in more ways than you can possibly comprehend.
Now, it would take me until Tuesday to unpack all the consequences of an affair. Let me tell you just one that most cheaters don't think about, is the devastating loss of trust. The fact is, in any relationship you don't know a thousand things that your spouse is doing or thinking in any given day. But if you trust them, you don't worry about it. I might look at my phone 50 times, if my wife trusts me, she's not thinking, "What's he looking at? Who's he texting? What files are hidden in his phone"? If I leave to go to work, my wife doesn't have to think well, "What's he really doing for those ten hours"? But if you've lost your spouse's trust, every second they fill in the blanks with the worst possible assumption. When you're late coming home from work, he'll have to wonder, "Where's she really"?
When traffic is busy and it's three minutes from after when you said you've walked into the door triggers or happening in traumatic ways, every time you look at your phone, every time you're at work, every time you're on a device. Once you lose someone's trust, their heart will fill in the blanks with the most painful, difficult memories. That's what infidelity does. It rips out the very heart of a relationship. That I can trust you to be faithful to me, once you lose that and most people don't think of that, it will take so long to regrow. I tell couples, a relationship is like a beautiful tree. with a thick trunk called trust. And it produces the green leaves and bright fruits of happiness.
But if you commit adultery, you rip up the chain saw. And you can't pick the tree up, get out some gorilla tape and fix it. What you could do in one day, in one season, in one year with an affair could take so long to rebuild. And the God who loves you, the God who doesn't want his sons and daughters to be triggered, to have to wonder, to be robbed of their peace and joy by a thousand thoughts that run through their head, he just says so bluntly with the very first example, "Don't. Please, don't".
Back in 1941, there was a woman from the Soviet Union who was kidnapped by Hitler and the Holocaust. She was thrown into a concentration camp where she witnessed the horrors of everything that Hitler was doing. Family members were murdered before her eyes, genocide happened, there were daily abuses and traumas, but somehow by the grace of God she survived. She made it out of the concentration camp, she actually met a man, she got married and then that man cheated on her. And you know what this Holocaust survivor said about that experience? She said, "The affair was the most painful experience of my life". Don't. Some of you are unhappy in your relationship right now, and there is someone that's making you feel something you haven't felt in a long time. Do not be deceived. Do not think that there will be more pro than con. Do not think that you will end up unscathed. The picnic is set and it's not too late to pack things up and go home. Don't.
Which brings us to point number two. Our Heavenly Father doesn't just say, "Don't," He also says this, "Don't come close". I was reading a book where the author interviews dozens and dozens and dozens of people who committed adultery and she asked every one of them, "Did you ever think that you'd be that guy? Did you ever think that you would be that wife who strayed"? And every single person said, "Never". "It wasn't like I was standing at the altar holding my husband's hand with fingers crossed behind my back. I never... as a Christian, I knew the Ten Commandments. I never thought I would be that person, so how in the world does it happen? How does it happen to followers of Jesus? How does it happen to us"? Here's the simple answer. When you get too close, you go too far.
Let me picture it like this stage right here. Let's imagine the edge of the stage, the step is cheating on my wife. Technically, if I'm standing here with half of my feet hanging over the edge, I haven't taken that step yet, have I? And I think all of you would know if that's a catastrophe, if that is the loss of trust and deep trauma, maybe, maybe Mike, you shouldn't be standing right there. Maybe you should do this, or better yet this, or better, better yet this. Yeah, maybe technically there's not a Bible passage that says, "You shall not stand right here". But everyone slips and everyone falls, and everyone is pulled towards things they shouldn't. If you're going to live life here, you are so close to doing something you can't take back.
Now every active infidelity is different, but I think there are about five steps that most affairs take that get you over the edge. I'd love for you to write these down. He's the first one. So often an affair starts with, "Deprivation". When someone who is married feels deprived within their marriage, they're deprived of attention, they're deprived of physical affection. They look to their spouse to communicate, to connect, to initiate intimacy. And if for a long enough period of time, that door just closed, closed, closed when you think you can run back to the one who've vowed to love you and they don't love you.
When a person swore before your parents and before Jesus, "I will," and then they don't and in fact they won't. There is such a profound emptiness to going home to someone who doesn't even seem like they're trying. That's deprivation. I want to say to all of you today who are married or will be one day that the smartest thing you can do is to constantly ask your spouse, "What can I do? How can I love you? I want you to go to work, I want you to look at the world and just see a billion people who don't love you as much as I do. What can I do? How can I meet your needs? How can I serve you? How can I submit to you? How can I respect you? How can I be like Jesus to you"?
The more you ask that question, the more frequently you keep people away from the first step. But if you don't ask, if you fight about something once, and then twice, and then ten times and nothing changes, what happens is that your spouse takes one steps, as they experienced deprivation. Step two, attraction. You see someone and there is something about her, might be the way she looks, she just might be your type. It might be the way he smiles, and his charm, it might be a physical thing, it might be a personality thing but there's someone that you just for some reason connect with, they're interesting to you. And don't be shocked at that, okay? We live in a culture that says like, "There's one soulmate and once you meet them, no one else will ever be interesting to you ever".
Victoria Secret's super model, boring. Like you know, our culture makes us think that but that's not true. Right? There are 78 billion people on planet earth. I'm guessing you might find more than one of them attractive, right? So that's going to happen. The danger is when that happens after deprivation. Right? You might work with someone or live next to someone or have a friend or an ex that's attractive to you. But when you're feeling empty in your heart and then they make something happen in your heart, danger. But step three is where things get even more dangerous. Intention. When you do something with intention towards the person of your attraction, you are getting so close to the edge. But when you do something for that woman or that man that you would not have done if you didn't feel a little something in your heart.
Ladies, let say, you have a zoom meeting at work, it's pretty casual, you're going to throw on a sweatshirt, messy bun. You're going to be just fine, until you see the invite list and he's on it. And some of you are in front of the mirror worrying about your hair, stressing about how many buttons you should button, and picking a new outfit for the zoom, that's intention. Let's see there's that woman in your office and you really didn't need to stop by to talk and check on the project, you really didn't need to send another email with that little joke in the PS, but you do it for her and not for anyone else, that's intention. When you weren't going to go to the party until you found out that she was going to be there. When you wouldn't have volunteered for that thing, until you found out the other mom was volunteering for that thing. When you take a step and just do something because you're feeling something, that might not technically be adultery but that is a big step towards it.
Step number four, emotion. When you start to share emotions with a person of your attraction, when it's not just business, and it's not just kids, but you're talking about the highs and the lows, the personal things and especially, please don't miss this, the unhappiness that you feel in your own relationship. In other words, when you are confiding in the person you are crushing on, that's a problem. And you might justify it and say, "Well, we're just friends and were just close and we just talk about everything". But when you take that step and you kinda know deep down that I'm running to him or her instead of to my own home to talk about my biggest emotion, you... To be honest, you are probably over the line already. Is what an emotional affair is, when you get my priority and emotions instead of the person I vowed to love.
When I'm sharing things with you before I share them with my spouse, or instead of sharing them with my spouse. Like if you know it, that there's and attraction there and it's not just business, but it's personal. You are one moment away from step number five, which is connection. A physical altercation. Once someone has somehow touched your heart, as soon as you two physically touch, sparks will fly. One man who was unfaithful to his wife said this, "I offered my friend a friendly shoulder, but that offer of comfort became much more within seconds. Falling was much easier than I ever believed possible".
And I wonder today if some of you are here just for this point. 'Cause you're not over the edge yet. The semi hasn't smashed into the picnic just yet. But you noticed something during those five steps, you related to something there and if God had the grace and mercy to bring you here for that moment, I am begging you to take a step. I'm going to tell you upfront, it's going to be awkward, it's going to be uncomfortable. People are going to think you're a prude, people aren't going to understand your behavior. If you talked with that woman at your job or that person online about family and everything and emotion and now you stop talking altogether, keep it strictly business, they're going to wonder what's wrong with you, and that is so much better than something that is wrong.
If you have to find a new person to cut your hair, if you need to find a new shift to work, if you need to find a new hospital to be at, because you're attracted to that doctor. If you need to find a new neighborhood to live in. I can guarantee you this, a year from now if you cheat, you will wish that you would go back to this very moment and take a step. Do not be proud. Every act of adultery starts with pride. I'm fine. I'm fine. Show me where this is wrong. There are cultures in the world that we call conservative, that are wiser than we are. They know that when man and woman get together, things can happen. And we live in a culture that urges us to act like this, and then they shock when we slip. Be wise.
Now, if you think I'm being dramatic and a bit much, I want you to listen to what Jesus said. In Matthew 5, Jesus' famous sermon on the mount, it's a section called adultery, here's what our savior taught, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'" Period. Exodus 20, "But I tell you, that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart".
There's some intention happening just here and it hasn't happened yet here. Just says that, I'm telling you. Verse 29, "If your right eye causes you to stumble," You're looking at her and it hasn't happened yet. Here's what you should do, "Gouge your eye out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell". Before you throw away your spiritual life, before you throw away the beauty of trust and forgiveness, it is better to take a drastic, painful step back, than a catastrophic step forward. Don't even come close.