Jesus’ Radical View of Women and Sexuality (Matthew 5:27-32)

This week we’re continuing Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount, and we’re picking it up in v. 27.  Last week Don showed us how Jesus is getting at the heart of the famous commands of the Old Testament, and this week Jesus is going to show the true hear behind, “You shall not commit adultery.”

I. The commandment against adultery is fundamentally an issue of the heart.  (v. 27-28)

–          We can all agree that adultery is a bad thing, right?

  • But why is it bad?
    • Our knee jerk reaction might be to point out that it’s a violation of our marriage vows.  And it certainly is.  But if I were to confess to you that I do not always cherish my wife as I ought, would you react in the same way as if I told you I sometimes commit adultery?  Now, of course, I never do either of those.  I’m a pastor… 🙂

–          The popular conception of adultery at the time was that it was a matter of theft – stealing another man’s wife.

  • This is correct, as far as it goes, but it misses a huge part of what sexuality is, and who women are.
  • In the biblical concept, sex is the uniting of two human beings into one flesh.
    • Matthew 19:4-6 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’?  6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
  • Jesus highlights the true nature of sexuality: not about possession, but intimacy.
    • This is why, when Jesus gets at the heart of the command about adultery, the core that he gets at is the heart of both the man and the woman: whether they were lusting after being with someone else.

–          Jesus focuses instead on what is happening inside the heart of each person.

  • What is “lust”?
    • Lust is not the same as physical arousal or attraction.
      • These are normal parts of being human, and there’s nothing biblical against them.
      • Jesus’ warning against lust is often disparaged and dismissed as anti-physical, and that’s missing the point of his command entirely.
        • In fact, you could make the case that lust is not pro, but anti-sexual.  It takes the person out of reality, out of the real sexual relationship with their spouse, and into the realm of the fake, of fantasy.
  • A deep desire to use another for our own ends.
    • As with many sins, it is the corruption of something good and right – beauty and sexuality.
      • Sexuality is meant to be intimate, celebratory, and generous – two becoming one, and staying one.
      • Lust is taking. It’s guarded, petty, and snide.
  • It is a corruption of the biblical command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • One form of lust is when men “ogle” women.  In this process the men don’t see women, sisters in Christ who are loved by God.  They don’t see bright, funny, and wonderful people.  They see bodies, and in lust men consider what they can take from those bodies.
  • By the way, notice how many ads you see this week where the woman’s face isn’t showing, just her body. What does that say about how we value her?
  • Who is responsible for this form of lust?
    • Men – Scripture says that we ought not blame God when we are tempted, but that we’re each tempted when our own evil desires drag us away and entice us. (James 1:13)
      • No matter what women in front of me wear, or do, it’s my choice about what to do with those images and opportunities, and, basically, whether I respond to those women as people or as objects.
      • There have been times when people have misapplied the biblical concept of lust to make women feel ashamed of their bodies, and assumed that their mere presence inevitably led to leering men, and that’s not right.
  • Women – Before you think that means that next week will be bikini week here at Grace, consider that the Bible is also very clear about the responsibility all Christians have to one another, to not provide a stumbling block to one another.
    • Let me challenge you with something, ladies: When you dress for worship next week, instead of asking the default question you normally ask (whether that’s “Is this cute?” or “What will people think if I wear this?” or “Will anyone notice that I wore this three weeks in a row?” ask this question,
      • “Is my wearing this outfit loving to the other people in our church?”

–          Objections:

  • “But that’s just how guys are wired!  It’s part of being human!”
  • Let me make something clear: lust is not manly.  Lust is pathetic.  Lust is a loner, hiding in his office after everyone left, ogling women on his screen with the lights off, hoping no one will expose him.  That’s manly?  That’s your picture of masculinity?
  • Jesus was the ideal man.  He lived a perfectly masculine life.  He had the same hormones, same testosterone as you or me.  And he did so without lust.
  • Men, brothers, we’re living in a time when masculine sexuality is being degraded, taken from what is most manly and truncated, a lifetime of intimacy with our wife, and we’re trading it for the safe, anonymous, culturally acceptable lie that is lust.
  • Now, lust is not always expressed in pornography, but considering how prevalent pornography use is in the United States, we’ve got to talk briefly about it her.
    • Naomi Wolf, New York Magazine
      • “Pornography is not making men into raving beasts.  On the contrary: the onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention… Today, real naked women are just bad porn.” Hol, 143
  • You want to show how manly you are?  Love your wife.  Be fascinated by her body. Celebrate and honor her. Lust doesn’t show you’re a real man anymore than playing Madden on Xbox proves you could play for the Packers.
  • “This is sexually repressive.  You’re just intimidated by my sexuality!”
    • “These commands of Jesus come from a regressive, pathriarchal culture that ignored the sexuality of women.  We are much more enlightened now, and know that sexuality should not be confined to marriage.  That’s bad enough, but the idea of attempting to block fantasy and imagination is close-minded and foolish behavior that smacks of self-delusion.”
  • Lust is not only wrong, it is harmful.

“The National Health and Social Life Survey…. found the following: ‘Having one sex partner is more rewarding in terms of physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction than having more than one partner, and it is particularly rewarding if that partner is a marriage partner.’ The groups most conservative on moral issues (Roman Catholics and evangelicals) fared very well in the frequency of sex and physical and emotional satisfaction data, recurrently higher than other religious and non-religious groups. In fact, Catholic men and evangelical women had the highest rate for always having an orgasm.” Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex, p 136.

(Transition: Why does Jesus warn so strongly against lust/adultery of the heart?)

II. Since sexual intimacy binds two people together, a legal action does not absolve the husband or wife of their bond or responsibilities to one another (v. 31-32)

–          The radical idea is that sexuality and marriage are inseparably linked.

  • This may sound obvious to you, and it’s certainly our shared religious/cultural heritage to tie them together, but its not how most Americans live today.
    • Sex is regularly practiced outside of marriage.
    • Marriage, especially in difficult periods, is often sexless.

–          Jesus is saying, if you think that merely writing out a piece of paper can erase the bond of sex, you’ll not fooling anyone.  Sex bonds you to the other person, and you can’t abdicate that responsibility or bond simply because you decide you want to.

–          Something worth noting: The Jewish community at the time wrestled, as we do today, with whether to allow divorce, and it what circumstances.

  • The debate in the culture was around Deuteronomy 24:1 – what is “something indecent”?
    • The school of Hillel saw “something indecent” as a loophole, that they could push any excuse through.
      • Bad cook? Indecent! Find someone hotter? Indecent!
      • An intensely selfish approach to marriage, and one that put the woman at the total mercy of the man.
  • The school of Shimei disagreed, holding to a similar view to the one Jesus advocates here.

–          Why does Jesus care about divorce?

  • Bad answer: Jesus was just being a typical single guy, pretending like he knew something about marriage.
  • Mediocre answer: Divorce is destructive to society, so Jesus made an absolute command about it to try to preserve the family.
  • Slightly better: Jesus was a feminist, and he wanted to make sure women in the culture were protected.
  • Best answer: According to Ephesians 5, the marriage relationship between two spouses reflects the relationship between Christ and the church – a relationship of complete, absolute commitment, rooted in unconditional and unfailing love.
    • Just as the idea of Jesus divorcing the church seems unthinkable, so the idea of human divorce ought to seem unthinkable.

–          Jesus is laying out a principle about the nature of marriage, but not necessarily limiting any other possible reasons for divorce (see 1 Corinthians 7:11-13)

III. Jesus considers sexual sin to be a serious danger, and worthy of dramatic action in response (v. 29-30)

–          How would you respond differently to sexual sin in your life if you saw it as truly dangerous?

  • For some of us, we’re absurdly comfortable with sexual sin in your life.  Because it’s the behavior we saw in our family, or because it’s normal in movies or TV, or because we just want to do it, we’ve convinced ourselves that there’s no real reason to sweat it.  Jesus forgives, right?  He wants us to be happy, right?
  • For others of us, we are in a cycle of shame with our sexual sin.  It’s not that we’re comfortable with it.  We legitimately hate ourselves that we hook up with someone, or watch porn, or fantasize about being married to someone else, or whatever it is.  But the more we hate ourselves, the more we want an escape, and the more compelling the escape of lust.
  • The story of Aron Ralston, the climber who was stuck for 127 hours and needed to cut off his own arm to escape.
  • In this passage, Jesus is saying that you need that sort of desperation and courage.
  • We are all addicts to sin, and addictions are not overcome easily.
  • You need to see the severity of this sin, and be willing to cut off whatever you need to cut off.
  • What body part do you lop off that frees you from being self-indulgent?  What body part can I remove that will make me unconditionally loving?

Next Steps:

Reflection: Through discussions with trusted friends and in prayer, consider the “what,” “when,” and “why” of your struggle with lust.  What triggers your temptation towards lust?  When are you prone towards falling into lust?  Why is lust appealing? What do you think (even if you know it’s not true) that lust will accomplish?

PrayerJesus, I know I have not treated intimacy and sexuality as the good gift that is.  I have given it your place, Lord, as that thing that makes me feel alive, worthwhile, and wanted.  Forgive me.  Thank you for showing me what is true of my heart, and for your unconditional love towards me.

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