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Q. What Are The Boundaries A Husband Should Observe Regarding Other Women?


Dear Friend,

Here is how I understand this question.  A husband is having an inappropriate relationship with a married woman.  When confronted with this, he excuses himself by insisting that this relationship is not sexual, while admitting that there is an ongoing (non-sexual) relationship with this person.  How can one convince this husband that he is sinning by continuing in this relationship?

Speaking from many years of experience, it is very difficult for me to believe that an inappropriate “friendship” does not include a sexual relationship.  Even if this were the case, and that only an ongoing non-sexual “friendship” is being maintained, there are a number of Scriptures which would indicate that this is wrong.  The sad the reality is that when one persists in this kind of sin they become very skillful at avoiding the teaching of Scripture and instead become skillful at excusing their sin through rationalizations and justifications.  It is no wonder that we read these words in Scripture, which address our willingness to hear and to heed God’s Word:

"If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (Jn. 7:17 NAU)

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt. 11:15 NAU)

This said, here are some biblical texts which directly or indirectly confront those persisting in an inappropriate relationship outside of marriage.

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 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. 29 "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 "It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matt. 5:27-32 NAU)

I would point out that these strong words are found in the very middle of Jesus’ teaching about adultery and divorce.  In the broader context of our Lord’s teaching, Jesus is correcting the inadequate teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.  The scribes and Pharisees taught that it was wrong to murder; Jesus taught that hatred was the root of murder, and that it was also wrong (Matthew 5:21-22).  The scribes and Pharisees taught that the physical act of adultery was wrong; Jesus taught that adulterous thoughts were also wrong (and often the root of adultery – Matthew 5:27-28).

Anyone who is seeking to justify an inappropriate relationship because it does not include actual sexual immorality fails to take our Lord’s words seriously.  And, beyond this, note just how seriously Jesus says one should respond to actions or thoughts leading to sin.  He says that if it would prevent sin, one should cut off a hand or pluck out an eye.  Obviously, such actions don’t prevent sin, but they do illustrate how serious we should be about avoiding sin.  “Cut it off” may very well apply to a husband’s inappropriate relationship with another woman.

Here are some other passages which address sexual sin:

And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH '? 6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matt. 19:4-6 NAU)

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:22-33 NAU)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thess. 4:3-8 NAU)

It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me." 8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9 "There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" 10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. (Gen. 39:7-10 NAU)

The Book of Proverbs has much to say about sexual immorality, making it clear that the one who is wise does everything possible to avoid a woman who is immoral (and this works in reverse as well).  A man should be enticed by his wife and not another:

Drink water from your own cistern And fresh water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be yours alone And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? 21 For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. 22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. 23 He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray. (Prov. 5:15-23 NAU)

Notice that in Proverbs that the words (lips) of the “strange woman” play a large part in her seductions:

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey And smoother than oil is her speech; (Prov. 5:3 NAU)

To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress. (Prov. 6:24 NAU)

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your intimate friend; 5 That they may keep you from an adulteress, From the foreigner who flatters with her words. (Prov. 7:4-5 NAU)

With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him. (Prov. 7:21 NAU)

Therefore, it seems foolish to say that ongoing conversations with another man’s wife can not be a serious problem.

Proverbs speaks a great deal about a person’s character (simple, fool, scoffer, sluggard, scoffer) and encourages us to associate with the wise, while avoiding the unwise.

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, (Prov. 1:5 NAU)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Prov. 12:15 NAU)

Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel. (Prov. 13:10 NAU)

In order for a man (or woman) to pursue an intimate relationship outside of marriage he or she must do so by ignoring the clear instructions and warnings of Scripture.  And the consequences, as we see in Proverbs 5, are substantial.

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Adultery, Boundaries, Marriage

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