Adultery – Identity and the Seventh Commandment

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14

Sex is firmly tied to our identity.

How we approach sex, who we do it with, and our motivation for having sex are all products of our sense of self.

In our culture, we have taken this one step further, and make sex not just a product of identity, but an identity in itself. But, that is a topic for a different post on a different day.

Because his nature is faithfulness, God hates adultery. It is not a fruit of an identity centered in Christ. It is a sign of a problem.

Sex is connection on a soul level and is powerful. As such, sex can be used as a source of approval, control, or security and give a perceived sense of value to the self by answering the questions of identity:

What do I do? What do I have? What do people think of me?

When sex is part of the basis for identity, it is used to manufacture a sense of value. Sex is self-centered.

I have lots of sex. –> Which makes me better than those who don’t.

I satisfy my spouse. –> Which means my performance is good.

I am desirable. –> Which provides a source of positive affirmation.

I give (or withhold) sex to get something I want. –> Which is a source of power.

Sex makes me feel secure. –> Which is a false source of wholeness.

Which brings us to adultery. Issues of identity always lead to misusing the gifts of God. Said another way, when we seek wholeness apart from God, we use the things He’s created to build up our false self.

Adultery is violating the exclusivity of the covenant of marriage with one’s spouse. In its most obvious form it is physical. But Christ extended adultery to the mind and emotions in the sermon on the mount. (He did this, btw, not to give more rules to follow, but to show that simply obeying the rules does not mean everything is alright with you spiritually.)

For some, adultery is about sex. Experiencing the conquest as a way to build up the false self. Using the conquest to supplement underdeveloped masculinity or femininity, i.e. I am a strong man because that woman slept with me, or I am still a beautiful, desirable woman because men want to have sex with me.

For others, adultery is about intimacy and being wanted. An identity that relies on making someone happy will respond where ever affirmation is found, particularly and acutely when it is unavailable or hard to obtain in marriage.

For still others, adultery is about security. An identity that is not rooted in something unchanging and secure will do what it can to create its own. Whether that is sleeping with someone who can provide more things or is in better health.

Adultery is not a fix for identity because you will bring the same YOU to the new relationship. Same brokenness and the same lies. It is a quick, temporary, and unreliable fix for issues rooted in identity that will ultimately lead to more pain and brokenness.

With an identity firmly established in Christ, when issues of sex arise in marriage (as they will), value will be secure because the questions of identity are answered by whose you are. Thus, problems – sexual, intimacy or otherwise – present opportunities to grow and change without fear of losing our sense of self.

Ultimately, that is what marriage is about. The marriage relationship reveals the ways we are broken and centered on self so that we can mature and learn to love selflessly. Allowing us a lived experience of the way Christ loves us.


I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.

Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching,  speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.

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