Fatal Attraction

Bible Book: Matthew  5 : 27-30
Subject: Lust; Adultery; Sex; Marriage Vows


A teacher was working with a grammar lesson and she said to one of her students, "Willie, what is it when I say 'I love you, you love me, he loves me?'" Willie replied, "That's one of those triangles where somebody gets shot."Well, it used to be a situation where somebody would get shot-with a gun.

Today it's a situation that gets shot with a television camera. Television refers to adultery, to sex outside of marriages, 13 times more frequently than it mentions intimacy between a husband and a wife.

There was a time when adultery, fornication, homosexuality, or any type of premarital or extramarital sex, was overwhelmingly viewed as wrong, immoral, and sinful. There was a time when people understood that some attractions are fatal, but no more. What was once considered sinful is now considered normal and even defended.

Several years ago Senator Robert Packwood from Oregon, was eventually forced to leave office because of an affair he had with one of his aides. He recalled a meeting with a minister in discussing this, and said, "He doesn't think that extramarital sex is right. He thinks in the office it is doubly unfair." He looked at me and said, "I don't sense any repentance in you." To which Packwood replied, "What did I do wrong? If there's any error, it's that I misjudged these women."

When Packwood said that, the minister hit the roof. He said, "Packwood, the cop-out of everybody who doesn't believe they did wrong is to say they misjudged." Packwood replied, "That may be true, but when those of us say it we don't mean it as a cop-out, we just don't think we did anything wrong."

When mistresses were interviewed about feeling guilt about an affair, 32% said they had very little guilt about their affair, and 30% said they had no guilt. Proverbs 30:20 says, "This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, 'I have done no wickedness.'"

American and western culture basically feels the same way. In a 1994 study of sexual attitudes entitled Sex in America, the University of Chicago researchers found 15% of women and 25% of men admitting that they had been unfaithful. But even more telling, 1 out of 4 Americans disagreed with the statement that "Extramarital sex is always wrong." 80% condoned sex before marriage and disagreed with the statement, "Premarital sex is always wrong."

But the news is even worse. 49.5% of conservative evangelical Christians do not believe that sex has to be restricted to marriage. One out of two Christians believe that sex can either be a part of a loving relationship, but not necessarily restricted to marriage, or believe it doesn't even necessarily have to have anything to do with loving the other person. Well, Jesus not only would strongly disagree with those sentiments, but takes sexual sin even further and deeper than people then or people now could dare to believe. He tells us how to avoid this "fatal attraction."

I. Confirm the Scriptural Law against Adultery

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'" (v.27)

The word adultery technically refers to having sexual relations with a person who is not your spouse. But in actuality it is a word that forbids all kinds of sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

In 1 Cor. 6:9 Paul lists practically every type of sexual sin when he says, "*neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites* will inherit the kingdom of God." The Scripture is unequivocal. Any sex outside of marriage, for whatever the reason, is wrong.

This gives me a chance to deal with the problem that in some ways has become greater than adultery, though it is a form of adultery, and that is the problem of what is now known as "Cohabitation." It's what our grandparents used to call "living in sin." As one grandmother years ago said to her granddaughter, "Remember, he's never going to buy the cow if he can get the milk for free." Well, what we used to call "shacking up" has become a hot thing today and there is a lot of free milk being given out. In 1960 a half a million couples were living together outside of marriage. In 2000 there was an eleven-fold increase to 5.5 million couples. During the 1990s alone the number of cohabiting households increased by more than 70%. About 40% of all children born outside of marriage today are born to cohabiting couples. Half of all adults, under the age of 30, will live with someone before they get married; 60% of first-time married couples now acknowledge living together before they got married, and the same thing is true of 66% of remarriages. Now one of the reasons couples give for doing this is because they believe it's a great preparation for marriage. But the evidence says otherwise. Those who live with a partner before marriage are 46% more likely to divorce, if they get married, than those who did not.

In fact, the news is even worse. Cohabitation does not help preserve relationships, it helps to destroy them. Only about 1/6 of couples who cohabit stay together at least three years, and only 1/10 last five years or more.

A 1985 Columbia University study found that only 19% of men who live with their girlfriends eventually marry them. In fact, The Journal of Marriage and the Family found that the longer couples lived together before marriage, the more unhappy they become and the rate of depression for unmarried couples is three times what it is for married couples. Something very little talked about is the tremendous negative impact it has on children. By age 10 nearly 63% of children of co-habitation, will experience a breakup of their household, compared to about 14% of children whose parents are married.

What does all of this mean? Simply that God knew what he was doing when He gave the 6th Commandment. It means that the best thing that the church can do for a dating couple, and the first message we need to give them is, if you want a good marriage, avoid premarital sexual relations. The National Survey of Family Growth found that women who were not virgins when they got married, have a 71% higher divorce rate. Saying no to premarital sex and adultery, means saying yes to a stronger marriage. But back to the matter of adultery itself, which is extramarital sex. Let me say a word to all of you men and women out there. The grass on the other side of the fence may start off green, but it usually ends up brown. 80% of all men who have had an affair end up staying with or returning to their wives, and of those who do divorce their wives, only 10% marry the woman with whom they had the affair.

Keep one other thing in mind. Of the 10% of men who actually do marry the person with whom they have an affair, 70% of them get another divorce. Simple math tells you the chances of staying married to the person for whom you leave your spouse, are 3 in 100. No wonder God said "you shall not commit adultery." I read a letter that broke my heart, but that you need to hear that was in Newsweek magazine from an anonymous woman from Calhoun, Georgia. The title of the letter was "Three's a Crowd." "As a former 'other woman' I wish I could erase my unforgivable days, now that I have been 'the wife.' What people who cheat do not realize is they are cheating not only on a spouse, but on the entire family, and I would never be a participant in that again. I thought it was okay to see a married man when I was younger, because I was not the one cheating-he was, and I did not know his spouse. But my thoughts have definitely changed. I used to support the No-Fault-Divorce Movement, but now I feel it is a big mistake. If you care so little about vows and promises then there should be a penalty. If you choose to cheat, you choose to lose."

You just can't improve on the Ten Commandments.

II. Condemn the Sinful Lust of Adultery

"But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (v.28)

Now when Jesus quoted the 6th commandment, "you shall not commit adultery," it would have brought a lot of yawns that day, because everyone had had the Ten Commandments drilled into their heads from childhood. But with this statement Jesus could have knocked them over with a feather. These people had been raised to believe the old adage, "Look, but don't touch." Jesus goes even further and says, you can't even look in the wrong way, or else you are guilty of adultery. He does something they never thought about doing. He goes to the heart of the problem because the problem with adultery is in the heart. To put it straight Jesus said long before adultery takes place in the bed, it has already been visualized in the head. The word for look in the Greek language is in the present tense, and it's talking about a continuous look; not a glance, but a gaze. Jesus said the problem with lust is not the sight of a beautiful woman or a good-looking man, but the stare. There is a difference between a look and a lustful look.

C. S. Lewis once said, "If you look upon ham and eggs and lust, you've already committed breakfast in your heart." Now whether it is an attractive woman or ham and eggs, the principle is the same. There's a difference between looking and looking with lust. Looking with lust does not cause a man to commit adultery in his thoughts, but in his heart. It's not that lustful looking causes sin in the heart, but rather sin in the heart causes lustful looking.

That's why you need to understand that the solution for sexual impurity is not external, because the cause is not external; it is internal. Job understood that. Job said in Job 31:9-11: "If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, Then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her. For that would be wickedness; yes, it would be iniquity worthy of judgment." He says even if his heart has been enticed by a woman, regardless of whether or not he ever carries out the thought, he is guilty just the same. Now this does not mean that it's wrong for a man to see or to notice a beautiful woman; nor is it wrong for a woman to see or notice a good-looking man. That's impossible. But what we cannot do is look at another woman in a way that would diminish our commitment to our wife; or to look at a man in such a way it would diminish our commitment to our husband. That's why Job goes on to say in this same chapter and the first verse: "I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1) Job's commitment was not that he would never look at another woman, but that he would never lustfully look at another woman. There's a story of two Christian monks who were walking in a drenching thunderstorm. They came to a stream and it was swollen totally out of its banks.

A beautiful young Japanese woman in a kimono stood there wanting to get to the other side but she was afraid of the current. Out of compassion, one of the monks said, "May I help you?" The woman said, "I need to cross this stream." Well, this monk picked her up, put her on his shoulders, carried her through the water and put her down on the other side. He and his friend then went back to the monastery. That night his friend looked at him and said, "I have a bone to pick with you. As a Christian and as a monk we have taken vows not to look on a woman, much less touch her body. But back there by the river you did both." The other monk said, "My brother, I put that woman down on the other side of the river. You're still carrying her in your mind." Jesus said, "Adultery is not only a sin in the bed, it is a sin in the head. It cannot only take place behind the curtains of a bedroom; it can take place behind the shades of one's heart.

III. Conquer The Seductive Lure Of Adultery

"And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." (vv. 29-30)

Now obviously Jesus did not mean this literally. If he did, we would all be blind and we would all be crippled. But in Jewish culture the right eye represented the person's best eye. The right hand represented the person's strongest hand. What Jesus was saying was, "You better give up anything you have to give up to protect your heart, your body, your soul, your purity, and, if married, your marriage." The Greek word for "sin" is a word that gives us the English word scandal. It was used as a bait stick that would spring a trap whenever an animal would touch it. In other words, anything that morally would trap you or cause you to fall into sexual sin, should be eliminated. The Lord is not telling us to cripple ourselves, but to control ourselves. Notice that Jesus didn't say if your eye offends you, put on some Ray-bans. He didn't say if your right hand causes you to stumble, put a Band-Aid on it. He used an exaggerated form of hyperbole to make a clear statement, and that is, whatever may be tempting you to fall into sin, either with your hands or your heart, get rid of it. Don't undress a man or a woman in your mind as you look at them. Don't linger at the magazine rack or rent x-rated videos, or bring filth into your home on television or through your computer that would cause you to fall into sexual sin. Ladies, refuse to wear things that would look and appear seductive and cause men to want to lust. You cannot avoid all temptation, but Martin Luther well said, "You may not keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." Now what Jesus said, using hyperbole, Paul says in much more plainer language, and explains what Jesus meant when he simply said, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust."

I want to make a confession to you. When it comes to sin, or things that would make me sin, I'm a coward. I run from them, and so should you. So if you are on the freeway looking for true happiness, don't take the exit marked "Adultery." It may look like a shortcut, but it's not. It's a dead-end to misery, unhappiness, and perhaps the loss of your own soul.


Many of you may remember reading in high school in Homer's epic poem The Odyssey about the sirens. They were mythical evil creatures, half bird and half woman who lived on an island surrounded by submerged jagged rocks. As ships approached the island, the sirens would sing beautiful seductive songs luring the sailors to their death. When Odysseus' ship approached the island, he ordered his crew to fill their ears with wax so they could not hear the songs. He then commanded them to bind him to the mast as they passed the island so that he could not change his orders. The song of adultery can be overcome, but it never stops playing. Remember, sexual sin of any sort is a fatal attraction, but it can be overcome through Jesus Christ and His Word.


1 The Atlanta Journal, 9-10-95.

2 John Armstrong, Can Fallen Pastors Be Restored?, pp. 29-30. 3 "A Bad Start?", Newsweek, January, 1999.

4 William J. Bennett, The Broken Heart, p. 77.

5 "Divorce: Can We Do Better?", Denyse O'Leary, Faith Today, November-December, 1998, (Vol. 16) No. 6, pp. 20-27.

6 In Other Words, May-June, 1994.

7 Newsweek, Oct. 21, 1996, p. 18.