Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount - Adultery

Today we are continuing our study on the Sermon on the Mount.  Yesterday, we talked about murder and today we will be addressing another of the Ten Commandments.  Today's subject will what the Seventh Commandment, the one that address adultery.  Here is today's text.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  Matthew 5:27-30 NKJV
Again we will see the comparison between the letter and the spirit of the law.  The letter is clear: "You shall not commit adultery."  The spirit of the law takes it much further: "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  I should have saved my illustration of a brother poking at a brother saying "not touching you" for today!  That is a perfect illustration for this.  Before I was married and especially before I was saved, I had the conversation many times as to what would count as cheating.  Lines are drawn as to how far one can get to cheating without actually doing it, and many like to dance as close to that line as they can.  The most extreme examples are those who claim that unless you actually have sexual relations with someone, you are not cheating.  That is woefully wrong.

Jesus takes this to a whole new level, and it is a level that makes perfect sense.  Being that our obedience is now out of love and not compulsion and being that adultery is between a man and a wife, the example of marriage itself is a great illustration of this point.  I am sure that any husband who reads this blog would say that he loves his wife.  I am sure that if you love your wife you would not play the "letter of the law" game with her saying that being that you were never actually with another woman despite many other things you have done regarding other women, that you have not committed adultery.  If you do, you are either wickedly selfish or the biggest dolt who ever walked on the face of the earth.  If you love your wife, I am sure you would not have physical sexual relations of any kind with another person.  I am sure that line is firm and solid.  But would you kiss another woman?  I am sure just about all of you are extremely firm on that one as well.  Would you share personal thoughts with another woman that you would not share with your wife?  This is now where many will begin to blur the line, but many will make the argument that such and such person is a really close friend and so it is perfectly fine.  What about flirting?  Would you flirt with another woman?  Sure many would say that platonic flirting is harmless, but is it harmless to your wife who is wondering why you do not flirt like that with her or why you are flirting with someone else the way you would with her?  Would you have online or telephonic explicit sexual conversations with another woman, even if that woman is a stranger?  It is only fantasy, right?  Who is it really hurting?  If do take that view, then let me ask if your wife knows about it and is part of those conversations?  You know it would hurt your wife if she knew, so you hide it and claim it to be a victimless crime.  And, finally, would you look at another woman lustfully?  Would you look at pornography and have thoughts of fantasy of things not involving your wife or things you wife would do?  Do you look at women at the beach and "appreciate" their bodies in their bikinis?  Do you look at women at work, thinking how "sexy" they are?  Do you and your friends see an attractive woman walk by and make comments regarding how "hot" she is and make comments like "if only I was single."? 

According to the spirit of the law, anything mentioned above is adultery and it makes perfect sense.  Think about how your wife would feel if you came home and told her how you wished you were single because you saw a really hot woman.  How would she feel if you left her alone at night to watch pornography or if you told her about how you saw pornography and it was really exciting (as though it is not exciting to be with your wife)?  How would she feel if you told her about how attracted you were to the girls in bikinis at the beach?  How would she feel if you told her that you were having cyber sex with some stranger, but not to worry because you would never actually meet?  How would she feel if you were flirting with other women the say same way you flirted with her or in a way that you never flirted with her?  How would your wife feel if another women knew intimate details of your life that you never shared with her?  How would she feel if you kissed another woman?  In any of those cases, she would be hurt and there is no way in the world you can fly the argument that none of it was adultery because you never had sex.  It is idiotic to think such a thing.  The fact is that anytime there is another person who shares interests reserved only for your wife or if you have desires for anyone other than your wife, it is wrong.  More than wrong, it is adultery. 

Jesus then raises the bar even further.  He says, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."  That is quite a thing to say!  Let me comfort you in that Jesus is not calling for body mutilation for sin prevention.  Your eye or hand does not cause you to sin.  It is what you choose to touch and look at that causes you to sin.  It is what your eye sees or hand touches that leads you to sin.  So what is Jesus saying?  He is saying that whatever in your life causes you to sin, you need to get rid of it.  Do you choose to watch things on television that lead you into sin?  Get rid of it.  If you can not stop looking at internet pornography.  Cancel your internet account.  If you have friends that you always seem to fall into sin when around them, you need to cut off those relationships.  Anything in your life that is a route to sin that you can not seem to close, you need to get rid of.

Maybe that seems harsh, but it is what Jesus said.  And it also makes perfect sense.  Let us look at what Jesus is saying using today's example of adultery.  Would you keep things in your life that lead you to cheating on your wife?  Would you maintain relationships with women who are constantly trying to break up your marriage so they can have you?  Would you maintain a relationship with a woman who is trying to tempt you into adultery?  Would you keep pornography on your computer or if you could not stop looking at it online, would you continue to go online knowing that you are going to cheat on your wife?  Would you keep pictures of women around that you lust after?  Would you keep anything in your life that causes you to commit adultery?  If you are a man who loves your wife, the answer is "no."  Just as a loving husband would not keep things in his life that cause him to commit adultery, a man who loves Jesus would not keep things in his life that cause him to sin. 

Today we saw the letter and the spirit of the law regarding adultery.  This is a great lesson for not only any marriage, but for our relationship to the Lord.  I say that because this is another great illustration to the Christian's relationship to the law.  Let us look at a tale of two marriages.  The first marriage is a marriage of law.  In many cultures and religions, marriage is based on anything but love.  Men and women (more so women) are arranged by parents to be married to someone else.  There is no courtship, no love, no real desire for each other, just parents telling two people that they will be married to each other.  In those religions, adultery is generally against the law and is oftentimes punishable by death.  So you have a husband forced to wed a wife he does not love and knows that if he commits adultery, he will be stoned to death.  He will, of course, not commit adultery out of fear of the law.  Maybe he won't commit adultery, but he certainly will want to.  He will look at other woman, he will fantasize about other women, he may even flirt with other woman, he probably will find a way to look at pornography, but he will adhere to the letter of the law.  Now let us look at my marriage, or I am sure many of your marriages, that is a marriage based on love.  There was no law making you get married, but you met and fell in love and decided to get married.  You are now together not out of compulsion, but out of love.  A husband in love with his wife would not even look at another woman, let alone commit adultery.  He does not need a law dictated to him to tell him so, he just knows that he loves his wife and would not want to hurt her.  And that is our relationship with God and the law.  Adultery is still just as against the law, but that does not even matter, because we would never even think about heading down that road anyway because he wants no one but his wife and he loves her and does not want to hurt her.  The law is upheld in both cases, but one is out of compulsion in an enforced arrangement and the other it is out of devotion to the one you love.  And such is our relationship to God.  We love God and out of that abundance of love we have for him, sin should be just as unthinkable as adultery in any form would be with our earthly spouses.  

If you are not married, perhaps this is difficult to understand just yet, but I am sure you have imagined it, but think of your wedding proposal.  Think of that moment when either you knelt down on one knee or the man you love knelt before you, remember the excitement and overwhelming love at that moment when you were being asked or asking the one you want to love for the rest of your life, the man or woman of your most amazing dreams, to make those dreams come true and spend the rest of your lives together.  We are the bride of Christ and that love and excitement you felt that day for your partner should be just a mere portion of the love you share for the Lord everyday.  Remember, while we spend our lives with our earthly partner, we will spend eternity with our Lord. Love the Lord as you would a spouse, cherish Him as you would your earthly love, and live in a way that is pleasing to Him. He gave His life to have you as His bride, please give Him your heart. 
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  Ephesians 5:25-27 NKJV

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