This morning we are going to be covering a difficult topic. This Fall, we started a Sermon on the Mount series where we were methodically studying each of Jesus’ statements in the Sermon on the Mount
However, in what would have been just our fourth week of House Groups, we came to the passage where Jesus speaks on lust, adultery, and divorce.
I felt that was a little too intense of a topic to discuss in small groups when most of you hadn’t even known each other for even a month
Yet, I didn’t want to skip it all together as if it didn’t exist, so I promised you we would come back to it…and now, here we are.
We’re only looking at 6 verses today, but yet the topic is so exhausting that we obviously won’t be able to cover everything. But it’s still worth doing a message on nonetheless
Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt 5-7) is considered by many to be the greatest moral teaching of all time. We’ve already spent a total of 9 weeks in it through 2 diff. sections, and now we’re continuing it again
And we’re actually going to keep plowing through it and finish it this summer
If you weren’t here earlier when we’ve covered the Sermon on the Mount, one of the things that Jesus does A LOT is correct people’s misconceptions.
He does a lot of “You have heard it said, but I tell you.” And he’s going to do it again today
Let’s get right into the 1st half of today’s challenging passage
(Matthew 5:27-30) - NIV
27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.” 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, 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. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, 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.
Jesus starts the passage by quoting one of the ten commandments: Do not commit adultery. Don’t have an affair. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
And this is NOT something that a lot of people in Jesus’ day are disagreeing with.
As bad as things have morally gotten in some cultures of history, this tends to be a moral constant in cultures.
People know it’s wrong to cheat on your wife or your husband.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t always a small minority advocating open marriages or some other ridiculous idea
But even in this country, it’s still a moral ideal.
And morally, we’re pretty far advanced in this country. Our human rights are superb when put in comparison with other countries in this world.
But if there’s one thing we’re especially weak in when it comes to morality…it’s sexual sin.
But yet, even then, according to a Gallup poll done just last year, 92% of Americans still think it’s morally wrong to have an affair (doesn’t mean they don’t do it…just means they think it’s wrong)
Just to give you some context on that stat:
91% think polygamy (having more than one spouse at a time) is wrong
88 % think it’s wrong to clone
80% think suicide is wrong
But above all those things at 92% is having an affair
And the same was true in Jesus’ day. It was wrong to have an affair. BUT, for a lot of people…everything else was fair game. As long as you didn’t actually sleep with somebody, it was fine
IT ALL STARTS INSIDE
And here’s where Jesus raises the bar on their ideas:
He says, “Even if you LOOK at someone lustfully, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.”
He says that because almost all sin starts in the heart. It starts in the mind.
Jesus points this out A LOT in the Bible
(Matthew 15:17-19) – NIV
17"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
It all starts inside.
Your actions are merely just outwards symptoms of what’s really in your heart. It all starts inside. Which means, we better get REALLY serious about what’s happening in our minds and in our hearts if it all starts inside.
Think about 1st degree murder for example
Anyone know what is the #1 factor that determines if murder is in the 1st degree?
Yeah, if it’s premeditated.
And typically those murders, like any other sin, start in the heart.
Somebody is incredibly hurt and angry by something that happened, and then in their heart and in their mind, they plan (sometimes for years) of how to hurt and murder someone.
And it’s not like you would say the “sin” or the wrongdoing didn’t start until they pulled the trigger right? No way.
It started way back when they first started thinking about it
And it’s no different with adultery.
Adultery doesn’t happen out of nowhere.
It starts with a glance that lasted just a little too long
And then maybe flirting that just seemed pretty innocent at the time
And then maybe talking more than you normally would (or sharing thoughts and emotions that were just meant for your spouse)
And then maybe hanging out more often and in places you shouldn’t
There are so many steps that lead up to it
And believe me when I say this…at each step of the way God is offering you a chance to get off that train.
Maybe you’re here this morning and the more you think about it, you’re starting to walk down that path…maybe just a little…but you’re starting.
AND, unless you do something about it, the train will just continue down that path.
That’s why Jesus makes this incredible statement by saying, “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Poke it out. Get rid of it. Take it seriously. Better to get rid of your eye than to ruin your entire life. Or worse…
And Jesus is not saying to literally cut your hand off or poke your eye out (even a blind man can lust). He’s just using hyperbole to express that we should go to any length to maintain our faithfulness to our God and to our spouse. Or, if you’re single, your purity while you wait for marriage someday.
If you feel like maybe you’re starting to give your heart and emotions to another person…then stop hanging out with them
But we say, “But…but…but that would be weird. And I don’t want to make a scene, and I would embarrass them and hurt their feelings.” We rationalize like CRAZY in this area.
And this is why Jesus uses such INTENSE language. Poke your eye out. Cut your hand off.
Because if we don’t. If we don’t take sexual sin that seriously, we’ll get burned.
We’re like little kids who just have some strange natural desire to stick their fingers in electrical sockets.
As a parent, you can’t change their desire. But you can put safety covers on.
And it’s similar in our life. You’re going to have a natural sexual desire. (and hopefully that’s directed at your spouse) But you can put safety stops in your life. You can put up walls. You can poke your eye out. You can walk away.
The stats on this topic are obviously a little hard to discern (because people don’t admit to things), but somewhere between 55-60% of people have an affair in their lifetime.
So fight now. Ask God for help! Even if you’ve fallen before, accept his grace, get back up and start fighting again.
You know, Jesus’” upping the ante” by saying “Poke your eye out” isn’t as radical and new as you might think. He’s really just restating the 10 commandments in a different way. Yes, the 7th commandment was do not have adultery, but the 10th was do not covet (desire) your neighbor’s wife…which is to lust. Same thing. It was always there.
He’s just making sure we don’t forget about it.
And not just cuz “He doesn’t want you to do something because it’s wrong!”
Sure, that’s part of it, he wants you to be a holy, pure, and good witness for him.
But He, like a loving father, doesn’t want you to go there in that he doesn’t want you to experience that pain of getting burned by the fire.
And that’s why he’s so serious about us not even getting on train in the first place.
And I believe one of the reasons why as many as now 60% of people are having affairs is because of our insanely oversexualized culture
Sex is a natural thing, but we’ve created a culture of people who are obsessed, misguided, and addicted to it.
And one of the unfortunate results of that is a generation of people addicted to pornography.
It’s an addiction most prevalent in men, but increasingly so even in women.
And sure, just as Jesus’ adversaries said, “You’re not actually committing adultery.” But you are in your heart.
And the affects and consequences prove that. It’s not just harmless “looking.”
There are enough even psychological studies that prove that now.
It changes people. It distances them in relationships. It changes the way they look at people. It changes their marriage.
And maybe you’re there right now. If the statistics are true, I’m guessing many of you are. And if you’re there….
Poke your eye out.
Get serious even about the little things. Seek God like crazy.
Get help. Tell someone.
Get internet monitoring. Xxxchurch; covenanteyes.
And also realize it’s an addiction, and it’s going to take time and God’s strength, grace, and forgiveness.
But realize that it’s just the beginning of the slippery slope to adultery. It’s just like any other addiction. Your tolerance changes, and you just want more and more and more.
That’s why Jesus’ words are brilliant. Don’t wait. Fight now.
Jesus continues with his challenging words in the Sermon on the Mount by now addressing the difficult topic of divorce. Which is so often the next step. Lust, adultery, divorce. He says the following:
(Matthew 5:31-32) – NIV
31"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
Ok. These are tough words. Really tough words. Let me unpack them a little.
But first let me preface with this. I’m going to speak some challenging words. But not without grace and forgiveness. For this topic requires BOTH.
Jesus first of all says, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.”
He’s referring to a passage Moses wrote to the Israelites in the Old Testament
Let’s read that
(Deuteronomy 24:1) – NIV
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,
It goes on to explain a few more things that aren’t quite as helpful to this particular discussion, but we see that Moses said that divorce (under certain circumstances) was permissible
But here’s where things got sticky over time…
Many jews started saying, “Well, Moses said if she became displeasing to us, we could get a divorce.”
But others said, “No, it says you “can” only if a person is ‘indecent’” (which in Hebrew implies a naked shameful exposure)…so probably being unfaithful.
And they also said Moses originally allowed divorce to 1) protect sanctity of marriage (if someone cheated, divorce was permissible) 2) to protect women (who didn’t have a lot of rights back then) from just being dismissed for no reason and thus having no one to care for them in a society ruled by men.
But what happened over time was the majority of people started to agree with the first interpretation saying that if a wife became displeasing in anyway (even if she was a bad cook), you could get a divorce
So this is the context into which Jesus is speaking…which is always important to know.
He’s setting the record straight on what God thinks of divorce in the midst of a culture where divorce isn’t a big deal at all (even for religious people)
And to those people he speaks hard truth. He lets them know that they’re being overly focused on Moses exception clause (meaning just focusing on a loophole) rather than remembering God’s original intention
Jesus explains a little bit more of this when he speaks on divorce again later on in the book of Matthew. IT says this…
(Matthew 19:3-6) – NIV
3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
He goes on later in the passage to make a permissible exception again for marital unfaithfulness, but he points out that God’s original intention is that marriage would be a unity that would go unbroken.
And one of the main reasons that adultery (and also divorce) was considered such a serious thing in the OT is because the marriage relationship is the most prominent symbol we have of God’s relationship with us
We, his followers, are often called “his bride” in the Bible.
We are united to Him forever.
And in similar fashion, he unites a husband and wife as a symbol of his unending loving relationship with us.
And when that’s broken, the symbol that was God’s love for his people, is also broken
I actually think the hardest words for Jesus’ audience to hear and also ours is when Jesus says, That when a person gets remarried after divorce it’s like they’re committing adultery.
Those are shocking words to our culture. And honestly, I would love to dance around them.
Because we never look at it that way.
But that’s really the problem. We’ve effectively normalized divorce. We’ve made it less serious.
As if it’s not that big of a deal. (Kind of like they did in Jesus’ day).
“You see, it’s not really like that because it happens a lot and life’s hard and……..”
But it IS a big deal. It’s a big deal in God’s eyes. It’s a big deal in your life to go through that. It’s a big deal for children who go through that.
The point Jesus is trying to make in this whole thing is that he wants us to take the marriage covenant so sacredly that we would never break it except when the most extreme conditions make it impossible to remain married.
A really different way to look at it is this: Jesus didn’t even require divorce when unfaithfulness happened (as many ancient cultures actually did). If reconciliation is possible, be reconciled. Jesus was only saying that divorce is permissible in that instance. But even then, it’s not required.
But unfortunately in our American culture, divorce is anything but sacred.
I remember a friend telling me that even at his 5 year high school reunion, there were plenty of divorced people.
Because to people today, divorce is always an option.
Some of the best advice I ever got was to never make it an option.
So if you’re married right now, if you’re engaged, if your single and thinking about getting married, if your already divorced and want to get married again someday… make divorce a non-option for you
Especially in your mind
Because if it’s an option…if your spouse gets you so angry someday and you let your mind drift to…well, maybe I should think about a divorce someday…, then it’s too late.
Treat it like it’s sacred. Treat it like it means something. Treat it like a symbol of God’s never-ending love for us.
But also, let me say this….
If you’ve been divorced before, I want you to notice something else about this passage we read: Jesus does NOT say that getting divorced or getting remarried after a divorce is an unpardonable sin.
But often churches have treated them that way.
Oh, you’re divorced, sorry you can’t take communion here.
Oh, you’re divorced, sorry you’re a second-class citizen in this church and you can’t be in this small group or whatever
That’s garbage. And that’s unbiblical.
Here’s what Biblical: Everybody else in this room is just as messed up as you are (if not more) and thankfully Jesus died for them too.
We are a collection of messed up, imperfect, and rebellious people, who were offered forgiveness by an unbelievably loving and merciful God.
And listen, if you’ve been there…if you’ve gone through divorce, I can guess a few things:
On the day you were first married, divorce was probably the last thing you ever wanted to happen.
You probably don’t want anyone else to have to go through it either.
Because it hurts. Anytime we deviate from God’s plan (and we all do it in different ways), it hurts.
And that’s why Jesus speaks (and why we do as well) so strongly to encourage people to avoid it.
And I think if you’ve been divorced, and you think about your own children growing up someday… You would give the same advice and encourage them in the same way.
So we speak with Grace, but also with a passion for marriage.
So let us be a people that are serious about purity. A people serious about marriage. Whether you are married or plan on it someday. Let’s be a people willing to “poke out our eyes” and “cut off our hands” for the sake of marriage. And for the sake of our King.
And may the trends change with our generations.
May our children’s children look back and say…it was with those generations that the divorce rate finally started to drop again.
It was those people who finally set the example again of honoring God and honoring marriage.
And we’re so glad they did!
Let’s pray that dream becomes a reality!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
JUNE 6, 2010