Renowned evangelist Billy Graham has underscored the seriousness of committing adultery, warning that breaking a vow made before God always has "severe consequences".
The Baptist minister shared his thoughts on marital unfaithfulness after a reader opened up about how infidelity had destroyed her life: "How did I get into this mess?" she asked.
The 97-year-old pastor first pointed out that both the reader and her husband are unhappy because they "deliberately disobeyed" the vow they made before God when they were married: to be faithful to each other as long as they lived.
"I realize you may not have taken that vow seriously; you may not even have thought about it very much," he wrote. "But God took it seriously, and when we disobey him and go our own way, there are always consequences, and they are never good."
Graham asked: "Wouldn't it have been far better if you and your husband had been committed to your marriage and done all you could to make it stronger?"
He referenced Jesus' words regarding marriage in Mark 10:9: "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate".
Those words, Graham contended, are just as valid today as they were when Jesus first spoke them.
However, while one can't change the past, others may be able to profit from such negative experiences, the evangelist said, citing Job 24:4, which reads, "Let us learn together what is good".
He concluded: "But you can change the future, and I pray you will, with God's help. Turn to Christ for the forgiveness you need, and then ask him to come into your life and heal your marriage. God loves you, and no matter what the future holds for you, we are never alone when we know Christ."
According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. However, research shows that couples who are active in their faith are less likely to divorce than non-Christians: Those who attend church regularly are actually 35% less likely to divorce than those who have no religious preferences.
Graham previously shared his thoughts on adultery, marriage and divorce in a "My Answers" column earlier this year. The evangelist suggested that God's highest goal for married couples is that they remain faithful to one another throughout their lives.
"How can you have a strong marriage? First, see it as a solemn vow of commitment-a commitment not only to each other, but also to God. In other words, realize that God has brought you together, and just as He was with you in the past, so He will be with you in the future. If you have never done so, commit your lives to Jesus Christ, and then ask him to be the center of your marriage," he wrote.
"Then ask God to help you love each other and help each other-even when it's not easy. Remember: the opposite of love is selfishness-and selfishness is the enemy of every relationship. In addition, pray and read God's Word together every day, and seek out a church where you'll be strengthened as a couple."