Pentecost Fourteen (sort of)
13″You shall not commit adultery.”
Doing certain things at certain times makes sense. You normally bathe at home, not out in the rain. You normally go to a library to study, not to a sports bar. You normally cheer for the QB on your team, not the pastor as he preaches. Although it might be kind of fun to see that one.
And according to this commandment, you do not engage in sexual activity with anyone unless you are married to them, (and in this sign of the times) and that person is of the opposite sex.
Yes, today we are going to talk about this stuff. (And if you are wondering, no it is not a coincidence that Sheila took the little ones out today.) This was not an easy sermon to write, nor is it an easy one to preach. This is a sensitive topic, yes? Now fear not, this sermon will not be R-rated, I do not have any videos or anything, but it is important for all of us to be reminded of what God’s expectations are for us in the realm of human sexuality.
Let’s get to basics and make sure we all understand our terms. This commandment reads, “You shall not commit adultery.” Adultery is being married and having sex with someone not your spouse. As you know by now, the commandments deal more broadly than at first glance. Being unmarried and having sex is also a sin, the Bible forbids it and the term for that is fornication. So yes, it is still a sin to be living together before marriage. This commandment states we are not to have sexual relations with anyone unless we are married to them, and they are of the opposite sex. If you are not married, and I am thinking mostly, but not only, of the kids who are here this morning, even now you are called to be faithful to the person you will marry, even though you do not know who that person is yet.
Like observing the Sabbath and honoring parents, this commandment originally was social legislation intended to protect the vulnerable, in this case, women. In other societies at the time of Moses, men could grab any women they wanted and treat them as property. Among God’s people, it would not be that way.
In Old Testament times, adultery carried the severest penalty: death. As with the Fourth Commandment, honoring parents and family, it protected one of the “orders of creation” on which our society stands. Honoring parents protected the family. Prohibiting adultery protected marriage. Without stable families and marriages, society disintegrates and self destructs. History makes this pretty clear. This was true of Greece and Rome, and I believe we are seeing it happen here in America, and we have been seeing it for some time.
Before we continue with this I do need to make clear that this commandment refers to more than marital fidelity. Luther said, in his explanation, “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do.” A lot of Christians these days are denouncing all the talk and judicial decisions regarding same sex marriage, and that is correct. But I think we sometimes do that so well we overlook other sins in this commandment. Homosexuality is a sin. Cheating on your spouse is a sin. Having sex before you are married is a sin. And that’s not all.
We need to ask ourselves: Do you watch pornography and/or the near pornography that is all over the TV and movie screens? Do you laugh at, or tell, dirty jokes? Do you flirt at work? Do you dress provocatively? Jesus said if you lust after someone in your heart, or try to get someone to lust after you, you have committed adultery.
Do you lead a “pure and decent life”? That is what God calls us to do.
There are basically three philosophical ideas of sex in the world. The ascetic view says all bodily, natural desires are evil. Humans need to ignore the physical and just dwell in the spiritual. Sex is bad because it satisfies a desire the body has. There is a little of this idea in many religions. We see it in monastic orders or a requirement of clergy to be celibate. Those who subscribe to the ascetic view believe a truly spiritual person will suppress all sexual feelings.
Jesus didn’t think we should deny our physicalness. He fed people and cured people. He didn’t see our physicalness, in and of itself, as a bad thing. This is not the way God wants us to be. In the beginning God created us to be male and female, capable of having sex. Sex is a beautiful gift of God. God wants us to be happy. He wants us to enjoy our sexuality, but only in the realm of matrimony: only with your spouse!
The current view in our society overcorrects the ascetic view. This second view, the naturalist view says that we were created to enjoy sex, so let’s do it! In this view, the sex drive is part of our animal nature, so it needs to be experienced. It must not be denied. This idea is ALL OVER sitcoms and dramas on TV, and the movies being made today. Our culture is brainwashing us to believe that this is the truth.
The naturalist says these needs must not be denied, ever. One should be free to do it any way, any time, as long as no one gets hurt. (That’s truly sad, because the people who believe this do get hurt, somehow or another. They do.) Ernest Hemingway summed up the naturalist view this way, “What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” A person’s needs are the judge of what is right and wrong. A person should be able to do whatever they want, as long as they feel good about it afterward.
What a pile of rubbish. But this is what Satan tries to sell us. It’s not new in our time or society. David gave in to the naturalist view when he had sex with Uriah’s wife, the wife of one of his soldiers while that man was away fighting a war. Satan says, “Go on. It’s just a one night stand. You want to. Nobody is going to be hurt.”
But God will be hurt. The third philosophy regarding sex is the Christian view. The Christian view, the Biblical view is that sex is ok when it is you and your spouse. This is a gift from God, but like any gift, it is to be used the way it is intended. Remember, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul wrote, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.” The idea out there that “This is my body and I can do what I want with it” is not Scriptural. This (me) belongs to God. He dwells here. Frankly, that was one of my motives when I dropped 40 pounds. This is God’s temple. We need to take care of it.
When we cheat, when we fool around, when we have sex before marriage, God is hurt. You are hurt. The other person is hurt. Any time we depart from God’s will and His way results in us being hurt. If we make a habit of this, then our heart hardens, too. It goes from one rebellion to another. It’s a slippery slope. Look at David: he had sex with Uriah’s wife, got her pregnant, schemed to make it look like Uriah’s child but when Uriah did not cooperate, David had him killed. And David thought no one knew! But God knew. Think you can keep a secret? Think you can hide stuff from your spouse or family? Not from God.
The main lesson here is that: as we do not use a coffee maker to make a casserole, as we do not use a saw to hammer nails, as we do not go fishing out on a lake in a car, we are to use God’s gift of sexuality only in our marriages.
The story of David did not end there. The prophet Nathan confronted David with his sin, and David repented. And he was forgiven. His family was destroyed by his actions, there were very serious consequences to his actions. But he was forgiven.
We have that assurance as well. Sexual sins do not make us unacceptable to God. They are part of our fallen nature. The homosexual, the pornography addict, the cheating spouse, they are all still children of God. Jesus, the crucified and risen ONE, is a Savior of sinners.
But do not be thinking then, “I’ll go ahead and have the affair. I’ll be forgiven.” With sin come consequences: in our hearts, our bodies, our self–respect, our relationships. Your spouse may never trust you again. Your children may never forgive you. Your marriage may end. You may never be able to forgive yourself.
But if we take these sins to God as we take all sins to God, He will take them away as He has time and time again–whatever our sin. When we repent as King David did and pray for a new heart, we will receive it. Your Savior Jesus took your sins to the cross. We will suffer the earthly consequences for our sins, but Jesus took away the eternal consequences. Jesus died and rose again. We are forgiven. Our Lord is here to help us, for He loves us with all His heart. And with His love and strength and wisdom within us, we can be and do what we are called to be and do: we can be pure and decent.
It is my prayer that God would lead us to do just that for the sake of His Son, Jesus.