If you have heard any of my sermons, you’d know that I’m not a big fan of worldly values though I still succumb to them far too often. As hard as it is, I believe we have choices to make several times a day that concern them. Do I keep my mouth shut when someone says something contrary to my Christian values? Do I love my neighbor like I should? Do I put God first in all things? Do I truly value the relationships God has given me? These are questions we face with almost everything we do and, I believe, if we’re honest with ourselves, we follow worldly values much more then we should.
I want to take one section out of our Gospel lesson for this morning because I believe that, as always, Jesus was on to something. Jesus knew that even the thought of sin could lead to sin so he placed the thought as equal to the actual act.
Today, in society, one can hardly avoid the proliferation of sex and sexuality in the media. Sex sells, they say. I believe that this is true because of the temptation that so easily haunts us when we see someone of the opposite sex in a provocative illustration. We are hard-wired for it and Christ knew that to avoid the sin, we must avoid even the thought.
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, there is an estimated 12 million sex addicts in the United States. Due to the accessibility of sexual material available on the Internet, cable television and videos, these numbers are increasing. Despite common misunderstandings, this addiction is not simply about “too much sex.” This goes much deeper and the result is lost trust, increased guilt, and divorce that is becoming systemic.
The commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” This is one value that the world has watered down so that it might continue with its passions. We’ve only to turn on our television or computer to see how acceptable infidelity has become. There is even a web-site to make it easier for cheating couples to meet. Hollywood has been given a great deal of power to change the way in which we think.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs did a survey back in 1992 and they talked to 104 leading television writers and executives. What they found is that their views differed dramatically from public perception. In the study they found that though 85% of Americans believe that adultery is wrong, only 49% of these writers and executives did. While 59% of the public believed in the right of abortion, (a number shocking enough) 97% of the Hollywood people believed in it. Now this study was done 24 years ago, do you think it’s gotten any better?
It’s no wonder that our society has been saturated with messages that are contrary to God’s 6th commandment. Our divorce rate and the number of married couples in counseling over extra marital affairs has never been higher. It’s time we made the choice to stop listening to Hollywood and listen to what God is telling us.
Scripture tells us that healthy marriages are built on commitment and honesty and that the healthiest intimacy comes between one man and one woman in marriage for life.
Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.” In Hebrew, the word for helper means counterpart or partner of equal value.
To understand a healthy marriage it is necessary to understand its purpose. First God created marriage as a partnership. Adam was productive before Eve was given to him. He had already started the work that God had required but he was not complete without Eve.
Men need to understand this. While they might get satisfaction and fulfillment from their work or play they often feel an emptiness emotionally. They often feel incomplete without the kind of relationship only a committed marriage can provide.
What sexual temptation leads to is a replacement of any real relationship. The fantasy replaces reality. The yearning for conquest clouds the mind into thinking that this is where true happiness lies. The result is the kind of frustration that ruins marriages and causes one to be alone with an addiction that will never be satisfied. The value of a spouse is replaced by the devil’s deception. The thought leads to the sin. The sin can then lead to destroyed relationships with both one’s spouse and one’s children.
God values relationship. He is a God of relationship and the relationship He created between man and women was and is a sacred bonding through marriage. God looked at Adam and said that it was not good for him to be alone so he gave him Eve. There was nothing said that she was merely created to have babies. She was created as a partner first and foremost. He gave dominion over the earth to both of them, not just Adam. Eve was different in her function and in the roles she played but she was never intended to be of lesser value. God’s purpose for marriage was clear from the beginning, one woman for one man for life. God didn’t make any other woman for Adam or any other man for Eve. Eve couldn’t talk about the man she might have married and Adam couldn’t complain that his mother was a better cook, the perfect union.
In a world that changes partners much like it changes cars or favors living together to avoid the commitment of marriage, God’s purpose for marriage cannot happen. Every attempt by society to change God’s intended purposes for marriage has been a step backwards. Though the world tries to inundate us with values contrary to God’s will and purpose, though more and more, the fantasy replaces reality, the evidence in lost relationships prove these values to be wrong and that what God intended for marriage is superior. The most successful marriages are first built on partnerships in trust both between each other and with God.
One of the greatest purposes for marriage was pleasure. In Genesis 2:22-24 it says, “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.”
When God presented Eve to Adam, his first words were, “this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Sounds kind of straight forward but in my research I found that this was a statement of excitement and pleasure.
Marriage was to be enjoyed. It was meant to be a relationship that brought great pleasure much like our relationship with God before sin entered the scene. It was to be a mutual commitment and it came with responsibility. It wasn’t some accident. It required commitment from the very beginning.
Today, too many young couples enter into a marriage expecting pleasure without the responsibilities that are required to find it. The happiest couples understand and are responsible and disciplined. True pleasure is a product of responsible behavior.
Finally in Genesis 3:20 we come to procreation. “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” Only after partnership and pleasure do we come to making babies. Eve was valued as an equal and not just a baby factory. The loss of this value in the Old Testament created problems for generations. Women became valued only so far as they could produce children for their husbands and that was clearly not God’s plan for marriage.
Children should be a product of two people of equal value who are partners first and whose relationship is loving and pleasurable, but too often our modern society has put pleasure first, resulting in marriages built solely on “feelings.” If our current relationship is no longer fun, then we try another one and our children are left with the greatest suffering. This then becomes generational and before long, joy in a marriage is left out. We must be partners before we are parents and much too often this is missing.
And this brings us to Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body then for your whole body to be thrown in hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go to hell.”
It is very difficult to save a marriage that has experienced adultery. The pain of unfaithfulness can be greater then the pain of death itself. The broken vows and trust in a union can be devastating. Only the strongest of marriages can survive.
And infidelity happens in the heart long before it becomes an outward act. In Matthew here, Jesus is attempting to help explain how important it is to be careful with our thoughts and how it can impact our acts. To look at another woman with fantasy develops lust and is just as sinful as the actual act of adultery, because it too often leads to it. No one wakes up and decides to cheat on their spouse, it’s usually the result of lustful thoughts and desires. The battle rages on but it can be won if we guard our hearts and our minds and avoid the temptations that the devil puts before us.
This is why a society lost in sexual fantasy is so harmful, especially for men who are more visually directed then women. First we look, then we lust after, then we take action to satisfy that desire. It’s also the reason the Bible talks about how we dress so as not to create lust in someone else’s mind. Jesus’ point here is to promote a healthy discipline with our minds because it will ultimately impact how we act.
A healthy partnership in marriage is practical. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”
Paul recognized here the importance of purity in a marriage. He encouraged those in marriage to continue a healthy sex life so that neither one would be tempted elsewhere. Paul was even-minded, he is equal in his command that they give each other their due. There is no subservient role of women in a Christian home. Both partners are seen having equal needs and equal responsibility.
In our modern society, we see couples who are away from each other a lot, often for extended periods and that can put a strain on a relationship and create the chance for temptation to occur. For this reason we should make sure each other’s needs are met in a relationship as much as possible. Paul’s point here is to act responsibly. Sexual temptations can cause an otherwise disciplined person to go astray – and the end result is a high price to pay for an evening of self satisfaction.
The Illinois Department of Natural resources reports that more than 17,000 deer die each year after being struck by motorists on state highways. According to Paul Shelton, state wildlife director, the peak season for road kills is in late fall. Why? The bucks are in rut in November. “They’re concentrating almost exclusively on reproductive activities,” he said, “and are a lot less wary then they normally would be.” Deer aren’t the only ones destroyed by this kind of preoccupation.
It’s a careless spouse, a careless society and a careless world that thinks adultery is only a minor problem or something that everyone is going to do anyway so we should quit being so uptight about it. Adultery undermines the trust and bonding between two people that God has joined together as one. It’s not just a sexual act, it’s a spiritual one. That is why the damage is so severe and powerful when someone is unfaithful.
Think of what marriage would be like if everyone were faithful. What types of diseases would disappear? What benefit would there be to the children of the world? What lesson would be taught?
The 6th commandment was given to allow marriages to experience the deepest sharing, with the greatest joys, and children who would grow up in the most stable of environments.
And how does this relationship that God has given us mirror our own relationship with Christ? Christ also has a bride and it’s His church. How have we become adulterous to Him? After all you’ve heard this morning, does it relate to how we have become an adulterous nation?
We are the bride of Christ and He loved that relationship enough to die for it. The love that Christ shows to His bride should be the example of the love we show to our own spouse.
Throughout Christ’s ministry, His one purpose was relationship both with Him and with each other. Everything he did, He did for our benefit because the relationship He sought with us was worth it to Him. When He spoke out against the mere thought of sexual infidelity He did so out of love because He understood how important a trusting and committed relationship was to us. When He used the illustration of separating ourselves from the eyes and hands that sin, He emphasized the importance of a proper relationship with the Father.
Jesus Christ died so that by His death we could be in relationship and in His death He challenges us to put that same kind of importance in the relationships we have with each other, especially in a marriage. God loves us with a love that transcends our greatest imaginings and that love is to be reflected even in our thoughts.
We need to think about our actions and how they affect those we love. We have to understand that, though the world teaches us one thing, our direction has to come from God. Jesus said that when a man joins himself to a prostitute they become one – not just in flesh but in spirit also. The relationship of one man with one woman can bring great joy when followed God’s way, or great pain when we ignore his instruction.
God knows our weaknesses. He knows that, by our self, we will consistently fall short. What a great blessing then, that God the Father loved us enough to give us his Son. Our walk in life is never alone. In prayer we always have God’s willing ear. When we fall into temptation, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit to pick us up out of the gutter. When we have wondering eyes, we have the power of God behind us to change our focus. When the devil drags us off the narrow path, we have the grace and forgiveness of God through repentance to get us back on track. When our guilt has driven us to our knees, we have the assurance given us through Christ’s death to get us back on our feet.
So I implore you to seek God first and do away with the fantasies that lead to destruction. No bond can be of greater value than that Bond we have with God. God created marriage to mirror that commitment. Stay true to each other and stay true to God. Amen