Ten Words to Live By

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When God says, “You will not commit adultery” he is giving us a word to live by. Not just those of us who are married. Not just those who have problems in marriage. It is a word for all of us to live by. This word to live by affirms that all of us are stakeholders in certain covenants and boundaries. And when those covenants and boundaries are broken, we are all affected.

See 2 Samuel 11 – King David and Uriah’s Wife

But even though we know that boundaries and covenants such as sexual purity and marital fidelity ought to be respected, they are constantly ignored. Why is that? It may be that we have bought into some really bad ideas about sex . . .

1. Sex as a commodity. Sex sells. Why does the poster for welding equipment feature a woman in a bikini? That’s not proper attire for welding. We know why. We have been taught that sex sells. The sports car does not come with the beautiful girl, but men buy the sports car anyway. We have been taught that sex sells. Sex has become a commodity. The buying and selling of sexuality is not limited to prostitution. Victoria’s Secret does not sell underwear. It sells sexuality.

We are always pressured to buy the lie. The cosmetic surgery industry is growing at an astonishing rate. The goal is to enhance features of the human anatomy to make one sexy and youthful. Sex sells. It is good business. Pharmaceuticals to enhance and effect sexual ability are also a growing industry. It is just good business.

Sex and scandals involving sex make for good ratings. And if a few boundaries have to be crossed to make a dollar, well what’s the harm? If people don’t like it, they wouldn’t buy it. X-Mart and the other “Adult” stores in our area perpetuate the bad idea that sex is something with a price tag.

God didn’t intend for sex to be merchandise. Sex and sexuality are powerful forces, much more powerful than capitalism and consumerism. When sex is regarded as a commodity, people just might break the rules to “get it.”

2. Sex as an idol. God has already given us a word to live by regarding idolatry. Throughout history, people have carved images of sex gods. Sex has been worshipped and humans have submitted to sex as a power for ages. But that mythological nonsense is all in the past yes? We don’t have temples to sex gods and goddesses anymore, do we? Not with bricks and mortar, no. But we do build shrines of electronic lights and pixels. Pornography is a real power that can work its “magic” in someone’s life as effectively as any force. We like to think that we can control our idols, but in the end they tend to dominate us.
God made sex as something good. It is part of who we are, but like all things in the creation, it is not something to be worshipped. Sex and human sexuality do have power – that’s why certain boundaries will be crossed; the power compels it. All such powers are not necessarily evil, but they (like us) need to be redeemed for God’s purposes.

3. Sex as (nothing more than) a personal choice. Even if we aren’t gratuitous or shocking, talking about sex publicly can be uncomfortable. That’s part of our problem. Although sex is a very intimate subject and does have something to do with our private world, we can go to the extreme of making it so private and personal that we no longer have anything to say about it publicly. And yet, that’s what this word from God is all about. God is affirming that there are certain societal covenants and boundaries that must be respected by all of us when it comes to sex.

This is what the marriage ceremony is all about. We are affirming as a people (single and married) a public statement about human sexuality. This is why the arguments about the definition of marriage are so fierce. It isn’t merely personal choice. If I go into my neighbor’s back yard and move the fence simply because I wanted it moved I am going to have a fight on my hands. Likewise, the ancient boundaries and covenants are not casually tampered with.

So it is doesn’t really work when we trample on marital fidelity and dismiss the breaking of covenants as a matter of personal choice. God intended sex to be something that everyone respects and when everyone doesn’t respect it the way God does, it is cheapened.

God cares a lot more about sex than we do. Wait, that doesn’t seem right, does it? Isn’t God really sort of testy and prudish? Doesn’t God intend to ultimately do away with sex? Isn’t sex just a necessary evil so that we can have babies who will grow up and worship God?

No. God considers sex to be something very valuable and good – after all it is his idea. It is a fundamental part of the created order. He made male and female in his image.

Often, God has much more respect and concern about sex than we do. If we really claim that we regard sex so highly then why do we tend to regard sex as casual and recreational? Why do we cheapen it by labeling it as “hooking up or a quick romp?” A man and a woman might have a one-time sexual encounter and just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, they check with other to make sure that “it didn’t mean anything.” That’s not a very high view of sex, is it?

God also cares about our bodies. He isn’t simply interested in saving our souls – he treats us as total beings and the fact that Jesus was risen from the dead in a new body teaches us that God cares about the sort of things we do with our bodies.

According to God, sex unites two people with bodies and makes them one (Genesis 2). That’s a high view of sex. Adultery is just one activity that doesn’t fit into that view of sex. If two people are one flesh, there are problems when a third is involved.

So if we respect the physical boundaries, then there’s no problem right? Not quite. God respects sex so much that he made it a matter than involves our hearts as well as our bodies. Jesus understood this. "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." (Matthew 5:27-28)

Jesus is teaching us that sex is related to our character. It has something to do with the purity of our heart. This applies to married and single people. We all have a stake in keeping the boundaries.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 18 November 2007

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