The seventh commandment has a lot do with sex.
My friend Bob Marshall was the Command Chaplain on the USS Abraham Lincoln when the war started in Iraq. Bob and his shipmates were deployed for 10 months. When they were on the way home he did what chaplains usually do, he got his sailors ready to reunite with their families. He didn’t say anything too novel, but there was a reporter from USA Today on board the Lincoln who sat in on Bob’s class. Before he know it Bob made the cover of USA Today. What the reporter quoted was Bob telling the young men on the ship, “if you want to have a good time in bed when you get home, start by doing the dishes.”
Wise men have discovered that while sex is a fairly simple thing for men, it is not for women and it has far more to do with the quality of relationship overall. Simply listening to your wife may be the most powerful aphrodisiac known to us.
Many of us get into trouble by not listening to our lady!
The seventh commandment says we should not commit adultery. Some of us may be distancing ourselves from adultery and are saying to ourselves, “At least I didn’t do that.” But Jesus has something to say to us as well. Once again, in the Sermon on the Mount he comments on the sin of adultery. He says:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do 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.
Reporters had a hayday when a Baptist Sunday School teacher by the name of Jimmy Carter spoke of violating this instruction from Jesus, but he was right. Sexual sin encompasses far more than adultery and none of us are untouched by its influence. How do we face the issue of sexual sin in all its forms in our lives.
1. Recognize it.
Like all expressions of sin that find there way into our lives, sexual sin needs to be confessed. Confession needs to be made to God and not necessarily to others, although there may be times when it is appropriate or necessary to confess to others. Confession is recognizing that I am guilty and taking responsibility for my sin. Adultery is the violation of the vows of marriage. The Bible understands fornication to be a sexual relationship outside of marriage. We could probably make a long list of things that would include pornography, emotional relationships, alternate lifestyles, etc. We all need to be sobered by Jesus articulation of the role of the mind (he uses the word heart) and its role in sexual sin. It begins first in the mind. It is nurtured there. And to one degree or another and at one time or another, we are all guilty. 1 John 1:9 reminds us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us.
2. Repent of It
To repent is to turn away from a particular course of action. It is to be going in one direction and turn and go in the opposite direction. If there is sexual sin in your life, it is important that you turn away from it. If you are involved in an emotional or physical relationship with someone besides your spouse you need to stop it now. The consequences of continuing are enormous and pack greater devastation than you might imagine.
3. Deal With It
As the alcoholic struggles with the recurring desire for another shot and the glutton for one more pork chop, so the one who struggles with sexual sin faces the unhealthy ways in which they have met recurring desire. For some it may just require a serious decision to stop. For many it involves a process of replacing unhealthy desires with good desires. It takes time and sometimes there is stumbling along the way, but one picks oneself up and continues in the right direction.
Last week the staff and board were at a Leadership Summit. One of the speakers was Dr. Henry Cloud. He said something that to me was profound, although I don’t think it was his main point as he was just talking about hiring a trainer in his own circumstances. He said: “Where you don’t have the maturity to address a problem, bring in outside structure.” If you can’t stop looking at stuff you shouldn’t on your computer, get filtering software. If you find yourself going to chat rooms for relationships, get an accountability partner. If you can’t handle going to the beach, do something else. If you are attracted to someone at work who is not your spouse, put boundaries in place or quit. Moving toward adultery is seldom done by leaps and bounds. It is more a movement of inches until you fall over the precipice.
4. Move Beyond It
Somewhere along the line some folks have gotten the idea that sex is bad and is at best endured. Freud told of the Victorian woman who drugged herself into unconsciousness on her wedding night and left a note for her husband that said, “Do to me what you must.”
How different than what God planned. In the beginning he designed us male and female for good reason. Listen to the maiden in the Song of Solomon (5:10-16) describe her lover:
10 My lover is radiant and ruddy,
outstanding among ten thousand.
11 His head is purest gold;
his hair is wavy
and black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves
by the water streams,
washed in milk,
mounted like jewels.
13 His cheeks are like beds of spice
His lips are like lilies
dripping with myrrh.
14 His arms are rods of gold
set with chrysolite.
His body is like polished ivory
decorated with sapphires.k
15 His legs are pillars of marble
set on bases of pure gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as its cedars.
16 His mouth is sweetness itself;
he is altogether lovely.
This is my lover, this my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
And then she is described (7:1-6):
How beautiful your sandaled feet,
O prince’s daughter!
Your graceful legs are like jewels,
the work of a craftsman’s hands.
2 Your navel is a rounded goblet
that never lacks blended wine.
Your waist is a mound of wheat
encircled by lilies.
3 Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
4 Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon
by the gate of Bath Rabbim.
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon
looking toward Damascus.
5 Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel.
Your hair is like royal tapestry;
the king is held captive by its tresses.
6 How beautiful you are and how pleasing,
O love, with your delights!
It shouldn’t surprise us to find this kind of prose in the Scriptures. God designed sex. He wants you to be fulfilled in this area of your life. The context in which to enjoy it is the intimacy of love of a man and a woman committed to each other for a lifetime. Sex is not an independent recreational activity, but is rather one wonderful way to express love and it can grow in depth and dimension as love builds and matures and grows.
God’s amazing grace is something that draws each one of us to him. And his amazing grace says that whatever our sexual history may be, whatever we have done, he can give us a fresh start. There are consequences to bad choices, but as we bring our brokenness to God he brings healing to us. The Scripture tells us that he removes our sin from us as far as the East is from the West. We can have another start.