Adultery, Crime and Sin

India is changing fast. The right to privacy is now regarded as highly sacrosanct. Gay sex is no longer a crime. Adultery has been decriminalized. People are celebrating this quick march towards a more inclusive and highly permissive society.

Adultery, in fact, had been decriminalized two thousand years ago by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself. The Bible (John 8:1-11) narrates an incident that had occurred one day in the temple of Jerusalem. Jesus had arrived at the temple very early in the morning. Even at that hour, people gathered around him and he sat down to explain the scriptures to them. While he was teaching, a group of aggressive people barged into the place along with a woman. The self-styled judges introduced the woman to Jesus as one who they had caught in adultery, red-handed. They told Jesus that the prevailing law required that she be stoned. “But”, they demanded of Jesus, “What do you have to say?”

Jesus tried to ignore them at first, but their questioning persisted. Jesus finally got up and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After this ruling, Jesus sat down again and did not bother to intervene further. What happened was that the people felt convicted by their own conscience, and left the place one by one, leaving the woman alone.

When it was quiet again, Jesus asked her, “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” “No, Lord”, she said, “Not one.” Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” He allowed her to go, but added, “Sin no more.”

Even if adultery is not a crime, it continues to be a sin. Even if adultery is not illegal, it continues to be immoral. Of the ten commandments that the God of the Bible gave to his people, the seventh was that “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) God’s laws are eternal and they cannot be struck down.

In the Bible, adultery has often had a wider meaning. Many times, Jesus addressed his audience as a wicked, sinful and adulterous generation of people. (Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:38) Adultery means being unfaithful and disloyal to anyone, God included. Cheating on one’s spouse may not be considered a criminal deed. But infidelity towards God remains a sin and will invoke consequences.

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