An Accessory to Adultery

Can a person, though not actually involved in the commission of a sin, be an accessory to that transgression? Let’s think about it.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

What is an “accessory”? In legal jargon, the term denotes “a person who, though not present, abets or assists in the commission of an offence.”

There are three ways in which one can be an “accessory.” He may be an accessory “before the fact,” “to the fact,” or “after the fact,” and in each instance be held responsible for a crime. Let me illustrate.

A person may be planning to burglarize a business establishment. A friend, who works for the firm, may supply “inside” information about the alarm system. Though the friend was not actively involved in the burglary, he was an accessory before the fact, and legally is culpable. He can be prosecuted and sent to jail.

Under the same scenario, another person may not actually participate in the break-in, but he drives the get-away car. He is an active participant, thus an accessory to the fact, and worthy of prosecution.

A third person may not have provided the inside information, nor actively have participated in the theft, but afterward he provided a place for the criminals to hide out until the “coast was clear.” He is an accessory after the fact, and so also is a party to the crime. With this background in mind, let me share with you a letter I recently received.

A Spiritual Application

A man states that he and his former wife were married a number of years. He concedes, however, that he never had an interest in sexual intimacy with his wife, though she worked hard to try and remedy his problem. He candidly acknowledged that he withheld himself from her for long periods of time.

This was in clear violation of apostolic instruction. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians:

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5 ESV).

In this obvious response to their question about sexual intimacy (cf. 7:1), Paul says that one marriage partner may not withhold sexual intimacy from his/her mate. The qualifications permitting such are three: (1) such must be by mutual consent; (2) it must be for a limited time; (3) it must involve a higher spiritual motive, e.g., prayer. (Note: Health liabilities are not under consideration.)

The gentleman who solicited advice openly confessed that he has been addicted to pornography and self-gratification, and that, as a result, he drove his wife away. He says she eventually left him and married another man.

He further contends that he now wants to correct the sexual corruption of his previous pattern of conduct, and perhaps find a wife. He argues that since his wife left him, and married another man, she is the one who committed adultery and that he now is free to marry another.

This is Pharisaical “legalism” to the core. It was obvious he wanted endorsement for his perverted theory. He did not obtain it.

I informed the fellow that he certainly was not free to marry — in my considered judgment. By his own confession, he had violated his sacred obligation to be a husband of intimacy to his wife. Out of frustration and loneliness she was driven away.

Was she justified in finding a new partner? No, she was not, for he had not adulterated himself with another person (be it woman or man). His sin was grievous (no disputing that), but he had not fornicated with an illicit partner.

He was, however, an accessory before the fact to her adultery, and thus hardly an innocent victim. One must live with the consequences of his actions.