Adultery and “The Right to Happiness”

Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC

“I believe everyone has a right to happiness.”

A saying such as this seems good enough, on the surface, even altruistic.  After all, wishing happiness to others is a gesture of kindness and goodwill.  I desire you to delight in life and want you to wish the same for me.  To refrain from allowing the actions of others which bring them happiness might be viewed as cruel, even inhumane.   Especially, considering what is at stake, our lives.  Only good could come out of this kind of thinking, at least that is what we are led to believe.

Well, suppose this seemingly correct view was not held by God.  What then?  How is it possible God does not want happiness for those who follow Him?  And if He is not about my happiness is He good at all?  Christians are not immune from this line of thinking.  Those who place themselves in the act of adultery often have wrestled at length with this matter.  While initially they had clarity on what they were to refrain from and why, now they are quite uncertain.  How does this happen?

“How can Christians, knowing what we know about God, rebel and enter into blatant sin?  We know that He is watching.  We know that He is listening.  We know that He is deeply grieved.  In order to turn away from Him, we must first build our case against Him.  In addition to being deceived into believing He no longer sees or cares, we must also believe He has become the foe and stands in the way of happiness.”  (Holtz, p. 55).

Maybe, if I am not ready to blatantly turn from God, I can convince myself it is his other followers who have incorrectly deduced from the Bible His lack of prioritizing my desires.  There are, after all, so many special cases in the application of His word.  We see others who are walking according to their own desires and appear blessed and happy.  Shouldn’t the same outcome be waiting for us should we choose to do what leaves us feeling happy?

“The task we have to face is the same, whether we are married or single:  to live a fulfilled life in spite of many unfulfilled desires.  What is common today, even among Christians, is that most people are just not willing to live with it.  They have concluded that living in self-denial is too high a price to pay, especially when the see others opting for the easy way out.”– Walter Trobisch, Missionary & Counselor

A reworking of our theology is not the answer.

Even those who do not believe in God will adhere to some form of moderation of their desires.  Living purely for what you want is seen as shallow and materialistic.  Selfish behavior has never been admired by any people in any time period.  However, when it comes to sexual fulfillment, the rules are very different.  Moderation and restraint can be viewed as legalistic, the actions of those too prudish to be enlightened.  Why all this formality around sex?  The result is the sexual impulse is being treated as no other impulse is.  It is afforded freedoms we would not dream of giving to other desires.

It is absolutely critical we take a more in-depth look at the belief system we are creating to enable our infidelity.  And, if our spouse and others object to our actions, perhaps it is not love and happiness they object to but deceit, selfishness, and adultery.

Holtz, L. H. (2007). Confessions of an Adulterous Christian Woman. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

C.S. Lewis (1963). We Have No Unlimited ‘Right to Happiness

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