WHY IS INFIDELITY SUCH A SERIOUS ISSUE TO GOD?
By Bethany Verrett
Loyalty is a trait that many people value, especially in interpersonal relationships. It comes in many forms, including a Christian’s relationship with God, friendships, and marriages. When someone commits an act that breaks trust, it is an act of infidelity. Usually, these acts take the form of a sinful act: a lie, an inappropriate sexual encounter, or making the choice to ignore the right thing.
Infidelity is another way of saying unfaithfulness. Being faithful to someone involves being truthful, consistent, and available. God is ever faithful, but humans often hurt the Lord through unfaithfulness to Him. The world will often diminish unfaithfulness, but the Bible is clear that God is always faithful to His people, and wants the same from us, and for us to display it to others.
What Is Infidelity?
Infidelity is a word weighted with many emotions. In modern culture, people come up with nuanced definitions of what it means to them. Often people think of it only in a sexual context, but there is more to it. Merriam-Webster provides a well-rounded definition, “the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife, or partner; unfaithfulness to a moral obligation; lack of belief in a religion.”
All three of these definitions from the dictionary align with aspects and examples of infidelity in the Bible. There are discussions about unfaithfulness in romantic relationships in the Bible. Friends betray one another. The greatest infidelities are betrayals and rebellion against God, turning away from Him.
Where Do We See Infidelity in the Bible?
Infidelity is a common theme in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, which highlights the lives of flawed people and God’s relationship with the nation of Israel.
Example of Unfaithfulness in Interpersonal Relationships in the Bible:
Joseph’s brothers against Joseph
“They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams” (Genesis 37:19-20).
Out of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers plotted to murder him, then decided to sell him into slavery instead.
David against Uriah the Hittite
“‘Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her….In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die’” (2 Samuel 11: 3-4, 14-15).
Uriah was a foreigner, but was fiercely loyal to David and the God of Israel. David had an affair with Uriah’s wife, and then had Uriah killed to cover up the fact that she was pregnant with his child.
Hosea’s wife against Hosea
“And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins’” (Hosea 3:1).
God had Hosea marry a prostitute named Gomer who committed adultery against him, acting out the infidelity of Israel against God.
Judas against Jesus
“Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-15).
Despite being one of His twelve apostles, Judas chose to turn Jesus over to the religious leaders for money.
Examples of Unfaithfulness to God in the Bible:
The Hebrew Children at Mount Sinai
“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together with Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’” (Exodus 32:1).
Even after seeing the ten plagues fall on Egypt, being guided by God’s Spirit manifested as a flaming column, and seeing the Red Sea parted before them, the Hebrews abandoned God after Moses did not come down from Mount Sinai fast enough, choosing to make an idol and worship that as their god instead.
The Nation of Israel against God
“And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord” (Hosea 2:13).
The northern Kingdom of Israel often struggled with falling into idol worship, which God characterized as being like an unfaithful wife.
The Nation of Judah against God
“Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god” (Malachi 2:11).
The southern Kingdom was the Nation of Judah, which eventually gave itself over to idolatry.
Why Is This Such a Serious Issue to God?
God takes faithfulness and fidelity seriously because those are parts of His character that He put within humanity. When the Bible records, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:27), part of that image is His innate characteristics. The capacity to stay true to one’s family, friends, ideals, country and God is in each person because they are designed with it.
He intended for people to always be faithful and loyal to one another and to Himself. Once sin entered the world, everyone had the choice, and everyone chose to rebel, turning away from God.
In many respects, any sin is an act of infidelity against the Lord. He asked for those who love Him to be righteous, and not walking the straight path is a show of disloyalty and unfaithfulness. Another way of looking at fidelity is the capacity to remain steadfast, a trait often attributed to God’s love, particularly in the Psalms. Wavering in resolve is another kind of unfaithfulness, whether to a person or to God. When people are unfaithful to one another, people get hurt. When someone is unfaithful to God, they sadden God and heap more condemnation on themselves, unless they repent. Part of why God emphasizes faithfulness in marriage and other human relationships is because if it is difficult for someone to be faithful to someone whom they see on a consistent basis, sometimes daily depending on the relationship, it will be even harder for that individual to be faithful and steadfast walking with God.
Bible Verses about Infidelity
Some Bible verses that address interpersonal and spiritual infidelity include:
“He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32).
“Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes” (Isaiah 5:18).
“Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’” (Isaiah 29:15).
“You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me’” (Isaiah 47:10).
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
Why Does It Matter So Much That God Pursues Us, Despite Our Infidelity?
If God expected perfection and perfect loyalty from people, no one would have a chance to receive His forgiveness. Placing a contingency on goodness or faithfulness in order to extend His grace would leave it out of reach for everyone; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Because He knows and understands human moral frailty and that no one is capable of always pursuing Him in perfect righteousness – which was highlighted by the Law – He sent Jesus to cover the sins of the world. “[All]…are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).
God continues to pursue those He loves, whether they be sinners, the nation of Israel, or believers, to demonstrate His glory, prove His own righteousness, and make a way for all to turn away from their sins and to Himself. If God did not pursue humanity, there would be no hope for eternal salvation.
Just because God pursues people does not mean it is okay to constantly sin and rebel against Him, feeling secure that God will always forgive and pursue. Some people will say because sins are covered by grace it is glorifying to God to sin, and Christians should do so. Paul addresses this false doctrine directly in his letter to the church in Rome; “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).
Instead, people who have a saving faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should pursue Christ-like living, so that God can be glorified and Christ’s sacrifice is not mocked. It is not loving to sin and abuse the gift of grace. The Lord Jesus said directly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Those who love God want to live in the freedom that grace and forgiveness provide, which means being free from the sins of the flesh and the former self.
Infidelity is a sin that does not just hurt the person who commits it, but the people it is committed against. There are many temptations in this world to turn someone away from a friend, spouse, or from God, but His Spirit empowers Christians to stand firm in their love and their faith, remaining faithful in all things, just like God, who is faithful in all things.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Bentorah, Chiam. Hebrew Word Study Revealing the Heart of God. New Kensington: Whitaker House, 2016.
Instone-Brewer, David. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002.
Ortlund, Raymond. God’s Unfaithful Wife A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.