Monday, May 14, 2012
The "sexual revolution" of the 1960's radically changed the social mores of America. It has had a profound impact on family life that is likely to be felt for generations to come. But was it a mistake? Did we lose something that we cannot recover?
By the standards of Jesus' teaching the answer is "yes," it was a mistake. After discussing murder and anger, Jesus went on in the Sermon on the Mount to consider the subject of adultery. It is here that modern society is likely to feel the enormous distance between us and Christianity. To understand what Jesus was talking about, we must understand marriage; and in modern society marriage has become virtually a meaningless concept.
No fault divorce turned marriage into a mere legal technicality. A "marriage" can be terminated at any time for any reason as long as both parties agree to it. One out of every two marriages in the U.S. ends in divorce, and many younger couples are dispensing with the formality altogether. Cohabitation and out-of-wedlock pregnancies have become common and accepted. And now we have "gay marriage," an attempt to cover a notoriously promiscuous lifestyle with a thin veneer of respectability. "Marriage" has become something of a sick joke.
According to the Bible human sexuality is not an accident of nature, the result of a blind, purposeless natural process called "evolution." Rather, it is something created by God. It exists by design. When God created the first human being, Adam, He said, "It is not good that man should be alone: I will make a helper comparable to him" (Gen. 2:8; NKJV). God then created the first woman, Eve, and brought her to Adam. The text adds the explanatory comment: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (v. 24). The Hebrew word translated "be joined" means "to cling, cleave, be close to." In this particular context it implies an intimate relationship marked by affection and loyalty. In marriage a husband and wife are bound to each other both physically and emotionally.
Adultery is the act of unfaithfulness to one's life partner. It is an assault on the most intimate of all relationships. The victim feels betrayed, degraded and humiliated. The family is destroyed. The children are liable to bear the emotional scars for many years to come. Marriage is a relationship that was never meant to end, and for this reason adultery is one of the most heinous of all crimes. The Torah, in fact, prescribed the death penalty for it (Lev. 20:10).
Here again Jesus internalizes the principle. "But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). The very desire to commit adultery is itself a sinful impulse. What Jesus is doing here is interpreting the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not commit adultery") in light of the Tenth Commandment ("You shall not covet your neighbor's house; You shall not covet your neighbor's wife," etc. . . .) The words "lust" and "covet" mean basically the same thing (The Greek version uses the same word in both passages). And here once again Jesus is echoing the words of the Old Testament. Solomon warned against falling prey to the seductress: "Do not lust after her beauty in your heart . . ." (Prov. 6:25), and Job could say "I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1). Job then went on to say, "For what is the allotment of God from above, And the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, And disaster for workers of iniquity?" (vv. 2,3). Jesus, in turn, takes note of the same fact: "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matt. 5:29).
The marriage bond between a husband and wife is sacred. Upon this the most intimate of all human relationships, and the stability of society, rest. Anything that would undermine that relationship is just plain evil. Herein lies the present peril of Western society.