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You Shall Not Commit Adultery

To be able to love without limit and remain faithful, humans need God’s fidelity in their relationship. Thus the sixth Commandment serves first as an example of God’s faithfulness to his people and second as a call to fidelity particularly in marital life. 

I started writing this article, when a brilliant and committed young lady came to my office. After the normal greetings, I asked her: “As a married person, what particular word comes to your mind when you think about the sixth Commandment?” She was silent for a few moments, and then she said: “Yes, the word is faithfulness. As I live in faithfulness towards God, others and myself, relationships are not adulterated, but remain vivid and creative in marriage and in life.” 

Along this line of thought, Pope Francis said that the immediate call of this Commandment is to fidelity and that indeed no human relationship is authentic without fidelity and loyalty. He said: “Human beings need to be loved unconditionally… To live and love unconditionally, human nature is not enough. God’s fidelity needs to enter our being. From Jesus’ death and resurrection comes our fidelity; from his unconditional love comes steadfastness in relationships.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote a prayer which we can make our own. He asked God to be able to live all the positive aspects of this Commandment: “O Lord, my God, give me a heart that may be always vigilant; a heart that no reckless thought may take away from you; a noble heart never degraded by any shameful passion; an upright heart never misdirected by any questionable intention; a firm heart able to resist every adversity; a heart so free that no violent passion may subdue.”

In this article I present the positive aspects of this Commandment. Since marriage is protected in the covenant of God with his people, God’s children can grow in respect for this unique kind of communion. This is the meaning of the sixth Commandment word for Christians:

1. True love is for ‘ever’. Jesus gave us the most inspiring example of a love lasting up to the extreme limit: “He loved them till the end.” (Jn 13, 1) Saint Paul wrote: “Love will never end.” (1 Cor 13, 8) I believe that those who are afraid to proclaim that love is forever do not retain love as a supreme good and consequently may not prefer love to life itself.

2. True love implies the capacity of starting all over again, to renew the marriage covenant when it is broken by infidelity. This is what we see in God’s conduct with his people, offering them the possibility of always starting all over again.

3. True love implies a kind of bet on the future: a young couple says yes in marriage while they are young, knowing that they will become older, that their skin will wrinkle and their faces will not remain fresh forever; yet they pronounce their unconditional “yes” in love also thinking about the way they will be in sickness and old age.

4. True love does not exist if a husband or a wife is unable to offer one’s freedom as a gift for the other.  Personal freedom exists as freedom with and for the other person.

5. True love is always linked to sacrifice. As a matter of fact, love nourishes itself with sacrifice like the love of Christ and is strengthened by it. No sacrifice, no love!

6. True love implies a principle: never separate sex from love, love from faithfulness and faithfulness from freedom. Sexual drive without love becomes possessive, violent, deadly and superficial. Pleasure by itself cannot sustain a relationship.

To conclude, I would say that men and women will understand and live the sixth Commandment when they discover that a love that is unique, total, exclusive, that translates itself into gift of self to others, is enough to fulfil human hearts and enjoy God’s lasting peace.

How beautiful the expression of a young woman to her loved one: “This is what I tell you: I care for you. You are God’s gift to me. I need only to take care of you, to respect you, to love you.”  And how equally beautiful is the young man’s response to her: “I love you forever. You are precious to me. That is all.” May the Missionary Church become more and more able to propose to her children a liberating and demanding teaching on true love and marriage.  

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