What Are the Consequences of Breaking an Oath?

There are many areas of our lives where we take oaths. The purpose of an oath is to appeal to a higher authority or power to hold you accountable for a solemn promise made before witnesses. The dictionary.com definition of an oath is “a solemn appeal to a deity, or to some revered person or thing, to witness one’s determination to speak the truth, to keep a promise, etc.”

People take oaths to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before they take the witness stand in court. The purpose of this oath is to ensure the individual tells the truth and to dissuade the individual from practicing deceit by making him or her swear or promise to a higher power. A violation of this oath, or committing perjury, is a very serious violation under the law. It can carry a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in Federal prison.

People in the military take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Failure to do so can result in dishonorable discharge, fines, and possibly imprisonment. Depending on what action is taken to violate this oath, it could be charged as treason, which is punishable by death.

People serving in public office – elected officials – must take an oath of office as well. Their oath is a solemn promise made before witnesses to perform certain duties and represent the office ethically. Certain professions require oaths with the same kind of purpose, to promise to faithfully fulfill the duties of that position. Failure to do so in these cases could result in impeachment, removal from position, fines, or even prison time.

In each of these cases, we see the seriousness of honoring these oaths and of keeping the promise that has been made before witnesses in how the violation of the oath is punished. However, the one oath that is taken on a regular basis that in our society carries no such punishment for its violation is the oath made at the wedding altar. In fact, the legal system really couldn’t care less when or how the marriage vows are broken. Yet the violation of this oath carries just as much – if not more – destruction than all of those other oaths.

Marriage is an institution established by God in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. God states that the man was to leave his family and “hold fast to his wife” so they become one flesh. The traditional wording during the wedding ceremony is the couple promises “to have and to hold” no matter what life brings until death separates them.

However, throughout our culture, we watch, read, sing songs, and joke about adultery – the ultimate violation of the marriage oath. In many movies and shows, the plot line is structured such that the audience even begins cheering on the infidelity of the characters.

For the Christian, there is no doubt how God feels about this. It is #7 in the Ten Commandments: you shall not commit adultery. Jesus indicated how serious this offense was by stating adultery was an acceptable reason for divorce (Matthew 5:32). God viewed adultery as the ultimate abandonment and betrayal of the marriage oath, to the extent that in those cases, the dissolution of the institution of marriage that He created was allowed.

Unfortunately, it is on these grounds that I have been left with no other choice but to divorce my husband. For quite some time, he has been having an ongoing affair. Though I had suspicions of it, he continued to deny it. Yet even with those suspicions, I made every effort I could to restore and save our marriage, but to no avail.

When I finally uncovered the extensive evidence that confirmed his adultery, it revealed the full depth of his unfaithfulness and deceit. This wasn’t a mistaken moment of infidelity. This was a long-term relationship that revealed he had no intention of preserving and maintaining the God-honoring commitment to his wife and children. In light of what all was taking place, and with much prayer and Christian counsel, I determined it was in the best interests of my children and myself to move forward with divorce on the biblical grounds of adultery and abandonment of our marriage oath.

Though he appeared to be a follower of Christ when we dated and got married, it became clear over time that he was not the man I thought him to be. He was more like the seeds that fell among the weeds in Matthew 13. There was a plant sprouting, but the weeds and thorns – the temptations and desires of this world – choked it out. Over time, he began pushing back against anything related to God and His Word, which deeply saddened me.

While some marriages can be restored after infidelity, it requires confession, repentance, and brokenness by the guilty party. We all sin and can make mistakes that are costly to those around us, but repentance is key to restoring and repairing those damages. Consider David. He committed adultery, took another man’s wife, and murdered her husband in an attempt to cover it up. But when David was confronted by the prophet Nathan, David was broken over his sin. He penned Psalm 51 expressing his remorse, demonstrating his brokenness, and seeking God’s mercy.

As Jesus said in the Luke 6:21 and 25, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh…Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” The spiritual meaning behind these statements is blessed are those who mourn and grieve over their sin now, because they will have forgiveness. And, as David says, “the joy of salvation” will be restored to them. But woe, or warning, to those who laugh and delight in their sin, for they will be mourning and weeping when they are judged by God.

Sadly, my ex-husband has not shown this kind of Godly sorrow over his actions or the effect it would have on his family. There was no confession and no sign of repentance, even when other Godly men confronted him. Reconciliation is not possible when the guilty party refuses to seek it.

Going forward, I have decided to return to my maiden name of Sterling. And now as a single mom, I will continue to homeschool my two boys and strive to raise them so they will grow in their knowledge and love for God and His Word. My constant prayer for them is that they will always stand firm in God’s Word and follow Him every day of their lives. I pray their love for Jesus will be demonstrated by their obedience to His Word.

Needless to say, the past several years have been a very difficult time for me. But I can definitely say that God has led me and carried me through all of this. God has been my comfort and my provider in every way. And continuing to follow His call in this ministry has kept me anchored to Him in new ways. He has been my shelter and my refuge. 

5 thoughts on “What Are the Consequences of Breaking an Oath?”

  1. Gutsy post. Extremely gutsy. God bless you for trying to seek reconciliation before pulling the plug. So many women abort their marriages over their feelings these days due to no fault divorce that it is refreshing to see a woman hang in there and suffer righteously, praying for repentance, actively seeking it from a sin-soaked unrepentant serial adulterer.

    You wrote: “Though he appeared to be a follower of Christ when we dated and got married, it became clear over time that he was not the man I thought him to be.” All I could think of when you wrote this was Ravi Zacharias. Believe it or not, there are STILL people making excuses for him, claiming that he was MeToo’d! This reaction is the product of easy believism American churchianity which is NOT the true Faith.

    PS. Lest I be accused of man-shaming here, which is all too common from the pulpits of American churchianity, I have written extensively on the ungodly use of no fault divorce by women claiming to be Christian and spiritualizing “abuse” (which is not Biblical), and remarrying after divorce (a blatantly direct contradiction of Christ’s clear and Own Words in Mark 10:11-12) because they got tired of putting the hard work into a marriage. That has nothing to do with Biblical justifications for divorce as a very last resort in the face of unrepentant serial adultery.

  2. I am so sorry. I know that must be so hard on you and your children. and it must break your father’s heart, who I know must love you so much.

  3. Cathryn without knowing why I’ve known you have undergone difficult struggles. I’m very sorry. I admire your commitment to God’s kingdom and to your family. I pray this will not be too negatively impactful on your two sons. I know you love our Lord. Maybe Romans 8:28 helps. I will pray for you and your sons plus for repentance by your former husband. In Christ, Gerry

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