Adultery is almost glorified in our society, and an individual's right to engage in sexual intimacy with whomever they wish, whenever they wish, is perhaps the most passionately defended of all human behaviors in our country today. With this new level of openness concerning sexual practices, the seventh commandment feels archaic and backwards. So, why do we continue, as a Church, to insist on this stringent, rigorous, and perhaps severe way of life? Why does God continue to call us to this lifestyle when it seems that everyone else is embracing an 'if it feels good do it' existence? And is it enough for us to simply avoid having an affair, or is there more to it than just avoiding the act of physical intimacy with someone who is not our spouse? What is God calling us to when God says, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery', and why does it matter so much?
First, let's begin by examining this topic from the perspective of adultery verses all other forms of sexual expression. Why is THIS the sin God chose to list in his 'top ten'? Peter Cragie, a well-respected scholar of the Old Testament, offers us this perspective for consideration:
'The reason why adultery is singled out for attention in the Decalog (apart from other sexual issues which are treated separately, later in Deuteronomy) is because adultery, more than other illicit sexual behavior, has to do with unfaithfulness in a relationship of commitment...The crime of adultery was the social equivalent to the religious crime of having other gods; both offenses involved unfaithfulness and both were therefore reprehensible to the God of the covenant, whose character it was to be totally faithful. It is this emphasis, that faithfulness (expressed in obedience) must permeate every sphere of life, both the religious and the secular, that gives a distinctive character to the Israelite law on adultery. Adultery of one partner in a marriage involved not only unfaithfulness to the other partner, but also unfaithfulness to God.'
(Peter Cragie, Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 160)
The idea that marriage is a foundational image for God, and that our marriages should be a reflection of the Church's relationship with God is a fact of which we are all undoubtedly aware. But have you ever thought about the fact that leaving one’s spouse for another is, in essence, the same thing as leaving God for another god, for an idol? Have you ever considered that being unfaithful to a spouse is a mirror image of being unfaithful to God? How can we be faithful to God if we aren't even faithful to each other? How can we continually be unfaithful to each other and to God when God has always been faithful to us? And it is this very question that pushes us to realize that this commandment is about more than just barely avoiding sexual relations with someone who isn't our spouse.
Jesus challenges us to consider the difference between outward actions and inward motives in Mark 7: 'When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.' With this as a backdrop, we can hear Jesus' correction of the faulty view of adultery (that it's enough to avoid just the act itself) when he says, '“You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt. 5:27-28) It is the attitude of the heart that is the birthplace of sin.
And so it is here that we remember that when we pray 'Lead us not only NOT into temptation, but lead us in EXACTLY the OPPOSITE direction.' It is here that we must recognize that adultery, at its core, comes from a deeper well of evil. Think about these three things: 1)A look and a corrupt heart are as damaging and as far removed from God’s plan as any touch; 2)A look and a corrupt heart almost always lead to a touch; 3)These texts are not just about adultery! Jesus is speaking to us about a fundamental human flaw, namely selfishness, that is demonstrated when we seek to control others for our own benefit. So, what would it mean for God to lead us in exactly the opposite direction of adultery? How about putting others first, their needs and desires, hopes and dreams, by following the advice of Paul in Philippians 2:3-5 - "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." What are some other ways you could turn your back on adultery and walk in the exact opposite direction? In what ways do you need to ask Jesus to help you begin and persevere in that walk? NOW we are walking in the Kabad Kingdom - can you feel the difference?