Q: What is the seventh commandment?
A: The seventh commandment is: Do not commit adultery.
With the sixth commandment stressing the inherent value of every individual life, one might see the seventh commandment as essentially stressing the importance of upholding bonds, including social contracts and especially personal covenants.
Children experiment with these in their interactions with peers; their notions of fairness, loyalty, and boundaries get tested in various iterations of friendships and ad hoc tribes. But the model they get to constantly observe and persistently learn from is within their own family. Once again, as parents, we have the opportunity and obligation to profoundly influence our progeny in their obedience, and this time it should ideally not be done alone, but as a pair.
Love is an act of relationship. To see what it is and how it works, one should see it in motion between two people, how it flourishes, gets reciprocated, gets rebuffed, persists, starves, improves, gets sublimated, and hides. While we often say that we want to provide a unified front to our kids, we should also show them how our marriages work: what obstacles we face, what initiatives we’re trying, how we’re persisting through frustrations, how we appreciate each other, and why we’re staying in this commitment.
Love, at its heart, is an act of commitment. A tie across difference. A transcendence of individual need. So the most important lesson we can impart is to stay committed. To be faithful.
That doesn’t just mean staying together. There’s lots of ways to betray a relationship. Having an affair, lust in the heart, pornography, certainly. But also seeking validation and sinking investment in work, friends, and Facebook. Separation and divorce, true. But also isolationism and lovelessness under the same roof. Abuse and violations of will and boundaries, yes. But also the cutting word, the dredging of past grudges, the humiliating low blow, the subversive posture.
The soul of faithfulness is faith, a belief in the other. Not one that is merely aspirational, a fantasy of change, but percipient, a recognition of distinction worth remembering in the thick and worth holding on to in the thin. That faith can only truly find sustenance if it draws from the same well of Living Water.
I exhort you: Love your spouse, forgive and repent, and let your kids see that love in action.