LOVE AND MARRIAGE
Father, I commit this day to You, desiring to abide in Your presence and abound in Your power.
Read MATTHEW 5:27-37
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[b] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[c]
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, / all His wondrous compassion and purity.’1
Once again, this time in the area of sexual ethics, Jesus rejects legalism and deepens the meaning of the Law in a manner which is profoundly challenging. The context was one of patriarchy and male dominance over women, reflected in the easy divorce by which a man might dismiss his wife by simply handing her ‘a certificate of divorce’ (v 31). Jesus challenges the culture of His time in two ways: first, by shifting the focus away from external actions to internal desires, so that no man (or woman for that matter) can claim to have fulfilled the Law and all must confess their sin before God. The language concerning the need to discipline the use of the eyes and control the imagination of the heart has an obvious relevance to the modern world, where we are bombarded with visual imagery promoting as normal the very things Jesus says lead to misery and death.
Second, if Christ protects women by His prohibition of the lustful approaches of men, His rejection of easy divorce moves in the same direction. Warren Carter says that Jesus opposes ‘culturally sanctioned dominance’ and restricts male power ‘by asserting a woman’s integrity’.2 When, after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Christian movement crossed the cultural barrier between Jew and Gentile and took root in Roman cities, it encountered new challenges and questions in the area of sexual ethics, as a letter such as 1 Corinthians indicates. The fundamental sanctity of marriage remained the foundation of apostolic teaching, but had to be applied in contexts in which converts needed acceptance, love, and patience as they struggled with the continuing influence of past decisions and the demands of the new life in Christ.
What steps will you take to meet the challenge of Jesus’ demand for purity of desire and imagination?
Dear God, it is so true that in sexual matters, “We have sown to the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind.” Strengthen me today to walk in purity of thought and deed.
1 Albert Orsborn, 1886–1967 2 Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins, T&T Clark, 2000, p146–147
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