Friday, August 19, 2016

19 August 1026
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into 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 of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30 (NRSV)
 “Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

            Good morning, and thank you for joining me. Today we will be looking at lust, adultery and divorce. Before we get started, I’d like to take a minute to address marriage; specifically same-gender marriage. I understand this is a hot button topic today, highly divisive in and out of the church. While I have an opinion, I will not be sharing it here. I will simply define marriage as a lifelong covenant relationship between two people; a commitment to love, honor, fidelity and selfless caring for one another. Lust, betrayal, selfishness and the use and disposal of people in are displeasing to God and wholly inappropriate for His children. His warning may be applied to most any relationship.
            The idea of covenant relationship goes, as they say, way back. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is a commonly used word-picture illustrating God’s relationship with His people Israel. Their infidelity in chasing after other gods is commonly portrayed as adultery. Take a minute to let this sink in. In marriage we have-or should have-two people devoted to caring for one another, putting each other’s needs above their own and trusting the other to do the same. It is a whole-hearted giving over of oneself to the other in love and confident trust. We now begin to see the seriousness of lust and adultery.
            Note the progression. Lust opens the door. Lust implies a desire or craving that cannot be controlled or fulfilled, a desire for what you do not have, what may even belong to someone else. Lust seduces with the promise that its object is somehow better, more desirable. Of course, lust doesn’t always begin that way; a casual glance; an unguarded moment; a seed is planted. Desire takes root, and suddenly your spouse doesn’t look quite so good. This might be a good place to slip in a word about pornography. Internet porn, social media porn, sexting-particularly their presence in the church-have been and will continue to be researched and written about at great length. Let me just say this type of lust is particularly dangerous in that it dehumanizes, objectifies and exploits for profit. God prefers-and offers-a more intimate relationship where partners are nurtured and treasured.
            Jesus may have had the unguarded moment in mind in vs.29 & 30. Removing an eye or cutting off an arm sounds a little extreme, but they point to the seriousness of sin, from Jesus’ point of view. Compare the idea of things devoted to destruction (see, for example, Deuteronomy 7:25-26; 13:17-18) in the Old Testament. But they are practical measures as well. Want to avoid lust? Don’t set yourself up to fail. We have control over what we watch, what we do for recreation, how we behave at work and how we present ourselves to others. Once again, the principle applies-set your minds on things above.
            Divorce, evidently, was as popular in Jesus’ day as it is today. It is not God’s preferred method of dealing with marital issues. Divorce violates the covenant made between two people and God himself and is not to be taken lightly. Elsewhere Jesus will say divorce was granted because of the hardness of the human heart, but it is not what God intends. Considered here in view of what Jesus has already said, it is a reminder of the covenantal nature of marriage and the call to fidelity and submission on the part of both partners. We are not demanding our rights, we are surrendering them for the greater good of the other. This in itself is book-length stuff; I will close with the simple reminder that God expects us to love and cherish, not use and discard. Two people growing old together, watching their children develop and seeing bits of themselves in them, is a great and precious gift. Not to mention grandchildren.
            And, of course, one more thing. While divorce is not God’s plan, forgiveness and restoration are always available. Lamentations reminds us God’s lovingkindness is new every morning. If you are divorced, or divorced and remarried you are not nor will you ever be condemned because of it. God’s grace and faithfulness stand. Every day is a new beginning. Speaking of new beginnings, now is a good time to consider, or reconsider, your thought life. What are you allowing to slip in that has no business being there? What might you do to prevent it? Ask God to search your heart-Psalm 139 is a useful guide. Listen for God’s answer; see what He shows you. Above all, guard your heart. It determines the course of your life.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all this day. JRG


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