Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:27 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt
not commit adultery:”
Moving now to a second contrast, Jesus continues His description of a righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees (5:20). By quoting the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (EX 20:13), Jesus brings us face to face with America’s cultural idol: sex. Advertisers sell with sex; Rock and Roll, and Country Music reek with the lyrics of sex; stores stock their shelves with books and magazines about sex; The Internet is awash in pornographic sex; soap operas, movies, MTV, primetime TV, comedians–all are riding sex to success.
We are being sent a not very subtle message–to be happy and fulfilled, try sex. Yet, thirty years after the beginning of our country’s sexual revolution, we find ourselves a society unhappier than ever before–more sex than ever, more misery than ever. We need to hear again the clear words of the One who gave us sex in the first place. Sex is a wonderful gift from God, and brings immense enjoyment and fulfillment, when done within the guidelines given by our Master, who said,. . .
Matt. 5:28a “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust
after her. . .”
Here is “one swift, burning, heart-searching flame. . . .Read it until it search you and burn you, and know for evermore that this is the ethic of purity in the Kingdom of the great King” (Morgan). The only sexual behavior condoned by God is one man with one woman within the bonds of matrimony. Any other sexual activity is forbidden, including, according to Jesus, all desires to do forbidden acts.
Jesus in essence said the seventh commandment was given not only to forbid external acts, but also to promote internal purity. Hand-murder has a correspondingly evil heart-murder (5:21-22), and hand-adultery has a matching heart-adultery.
Jesus did not prohibit the normal attraction that exists between women and men. Nothing is wrong with a casual glance in which one notices beauty or handsomeness in someone of the opposite sex. Jesus was saying such thoughts must be immediately arrested by holy watchfulness, and kept from becoming something more. The sin is not in a glance which acknowledges beauty or handsomeness, but rather in a casual glance which turns into an indulgence that stirs up sexual passion.
We cannot keep sights and images and sudden thoughts from entering our minds. There is no sin if our will responds to these stimuli properly, if we let these impressions pass through our mind without lodging. Sin comes when we hold on to them. Martin Luther said, we cannot keep a bird from flying over our head, but we can keep it from building its nest in our hair. Sin is not in a fleeting thought, but in harboring, embracing, and entertaining the illicit desire it engenders. Cherishing is a choice, an act of the will, a deliberate allowing of sexual desires to be stimulated.
King David saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing. Had he immediately let the thought pass, he would have been okay, but he embraced the image, and harbored it long enough to ask who she was (2 SM 11:2-3). His asking proved he entertained a notion of having her. Potiphar’s wife was stirred by handsome Joseph (GN 39:6-7). She nursed her thoughts, fed her lust, and tried often to seduce Joseph into having sex with her. David and Potiphar’s wife are a constrast to Job, who said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1 NAS).
Please allow me, at the risk of being too personal, to share some of the “covenant with my eyes” that I have made over the years. Knowing my normal desires, and realizing many preachers foul out due to sex sins, I decided early in my ministry to confront this temptation head on. Over the years, several things have helped me. I present them here not as laws to be obeyed, but as concepts which may help.
My first covenant is daily prayer. On my daily prayer sheet, I have written “Ruth and romance.” I ask God to keep my romantic ties with Ruth strong. I confess my need as one who knows he is vulnerable, but who desires to be invulnerable by the power of God. Never assume we are in no potential danger in this area. In a moment of weakness, sexual failure can happen to anyone. Remain ever vigilant.
My second covenant is, do not take a second look. My cousin and I, as teens, heard Billy Graham give this helpful hint. My cousin, being a red-blooded American boy, groaned and said, “No second look? Then can we at least take one long look?” The answer is no. At the first glance, turn away and divert your attention.
My third covenant is, no surfing TV channels when alone at night. Stations are airing more and more illicit sexual programming in the late hours of the night. A morbid curiosity, mental tiredness, or a temporary lapse into spiritual weakness may cause the thumb to be slow in pushing the remote button on to another channel.
My fourth covenant is, no R-rated movies. As a boy, while watching a James Bond movie in a theater, I had my first illicit arousal of sexual desire. I decided, even before I married, I would eliminate a whole class of movies from my acceptable list to attend. Ruth and I have walked out on other movies. No Christian should ever watch a sex scene on a theater or TV screen. Always look away or leave.
My fifth covenant is, when with someone of the opposite sex, look them in the eye. This keeps us from gazing at their body, and avoids suggestive glances.
My sixth covenant is, avoid compromising situations. If married, try never to be alone in a social setting with someone of the opposite sex, other than your own spouse. Guard your social life. I try not to ride alone in a car or eat a meal alone with a woman other than Ruth. When I need to meet with another woman, I generally ask her to come to my office, and while we meet, I keep the door ajar. When talking, never share marital problems with someone of the opposite sex, other than your spouse, except for a professional counsellor. Otherwise, a bonding of the mind may take place which can lead to an adultery in the heart and of the hand.
My seventh covenant is, keep a picture of your spouse in sight. I have on my desk a picture of Ruth and me. I prefer a picture with both of us in it, because it reminds me of our relationship. Ruth and I belong together. Neither of us has an identity of ourselves apart from the other. If unmarried, keep nearby a picture or object which reminds you what you will lose if you slip sexually. A picture of your parents or children may remind you of the esteem you would lose in their eyes. A Bible or Christian jewelry can serve to remind us we would lose the smile of God.
I reiterate, these are not laws, but merely concepts which have helped me. As a pastor, I feel my task is to assist you. I want to help you, never to harm you.