Many laws that were passed some time ago are now under scrutiny as relics of a bygone era—a time when people agreed on moral principles that are now up for grabs. Laws that enforced clean language, the sale of liquor and protected a spouse from adultery have all been challenged, and when a story of one of these laws being enforced makes news, it’s always in terms of how crazy the people are that still these laws, and how these laws need to be overturned.
Such is the case of the South Korean actress, Ok So-ri, who tried to overturn her country’s law against adultery—because she committed it (of course). In this case, her husband sought out 18 months in jail as a punishment for her transgression: the failure to keep her vows and maintain her monogamous relationship with her husband.
According to the current culture, adultery is the last big hurdle to overcome in having any kind of sex between adults being acceptable. It’s also the hardest, because it’s not just the physical relationship, but the breaking of a contract, the humiliation of the spouse, and the way this detonates—like an atom bomb to the family.
The culture likes to point to these laws as anachronistic—hence why people that aren’t even engaged in adultery may support measures to remove these laws. And yet, a marriage is a sort of contract—and the breaking of which should be punished by the law. It’s what the law is there to do.
To What End?
The question before us, however, is whether these laws are effective in maintaining marriages?
Well, what we do know is that it is obvious that in order to be guilty under the law, you have to have been caught. By now everyone knows that you’ve cheated. Looking into the motives of the person caught, they definitely do not want to bear responsibility for their crime because of the guilt associated with it, and to some extent the act of separating themselves from their spouse happened long ago.
Adultery Happens in the Mind Before it Happens Physically
When Christ told the disciples around the time of the Sermon on the Mount that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in His heart He wasn’t only speaking about sin, He was highlight a truth that we all know deep inside.
Mainly, that physical sin is an outgrowth of mental sin. When we make a vow or a commitment, we do so mentally. We consent to do something, and it isn’t until we’re persuaded out of or decide to break that promise that we actually break it.
A person does not simply decide one day on a whim to commit adultery. It’s a thought that they’ve entertained. They’ve either fantasized about the excitement, they’ve dwelled on the reasons why their partner isn’t providing what they need, or they’ve looked for the opportunity. They’ve fed their mind on adultery, or the possibility, way before it actually happens.
That’s why it’s important for married couples to be physically intimate on a regular basis. That’s why it’s important to work close to your home, and keep short accounts—so that your spouse always knows where you are. And this is where Adultery law comes into play. If the fact that you will have to do jail time prevents you from entertaining the notion, prevents you from thinking the thoughts, then by all means it needs to be there.
Breaking promises and vows needs to carry a penalty to help keep the relationship strong—not to trap someone in a failed relationship, but to help people to realize that they need to work on theirs so that it does not fail.