Thursday, December 11, 2014

Keeping the Seventh Commandment

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve written, and I apologize. The holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) as well as end of semester issues (for all of teaching, grading, and being a student) helped contribute to that. However, I’d like to pick back up where I left off: the series on the Ten Commandments. I am on the Seventh Commandment, which is “thou shalt not commit adultery.”

This commandment, like the sixth one, is in one way quite straightforward: don’t cheat on your wife, or take your neighbor’s wife. It is also considered to undergird the idea that sexual relations are made for the marital relationship. When this is considered, however, a few more applications open up. First, if the reason for the prohibition on extramarital sex is that God created sexual relationships to be an intimate act between a husband and wife, then we can see that engaging in sexual relationships outside of marriage (whether one is actually married or not) is abusing the gift that God gave. This is scandalous to the modern mind, since, for them, sex is something that exists as a tool to be used for pleasing oneself, and satisfying one’s own desires. Hence, inasmuch as society allows, or as much as they can get away with it, or as much as they can overcome their own consciences, sex is something to be pursued whenever and with whomever one desires (usually provided that the other is at least consenting, of course). But being countercultural is not itself an indication of truth or falsehood.[1] Thus, we must recognize and keep sacred the sexual intimacy that takes place between a man and a woman as intended for the marital relationship.

What about within the marital relationship? Well, remember, we were designed for intimacy between genders. Physically (and even to some degree emotionally) speaking, we aren’t designed to discriminate much. That is to say, if one is not careful, he or she can find themselves thinking about, or even engaging in, either a physical or emotional affair. This is why Jesus implores us in Matthew 5:27-32 to take our marital relationships (or lack thereof seriously), and that we are to take drastic measures to avoid submitting to lusts in one’s heart. I once had an undergraduate professor use this metaphor: you can’t always control a picture that pops into your head to tempt you. You can control if it turns into a movie. The idea is that temptations are not in and of themselves sin. However, your reaction to that temptation determines if it becomes sin.

Why should we avoid adultery? Because intimacy is designed by God to be between a man and a woman, in a marital relationship, and because we were designed to help one another in our relationship with God. This is how the seventh commandment can be kept by those who are single as well as married. In our current society, we need all the help and spiritual support we can get!

[1] Actually, in some contexts, it might be!

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