Summary: God calls us to committed faithfulness to one another as part of our commitment to him. He calls us to purity of mind and action, to help us maintain the purity of our relationship with our spouse. He calls us to keep our promises just as he keeps his.
There’s a phenomenon that I’ve noticed over the past few years. That’s the phenomenon of ’the better offer’. It comes in two forms: the first is where you don’t reply to an invitation until the last minute because you might get a better offer; but the second is worse. That’s where you say you’re coming to something and then when a better offer comes up you just don’t go. I’ve seen it happen at dinners that I’ve organised. I’ve even seen it happen at weddings - forget the fact that the parents have paid a small fortune for your meal. Just change your mind and don’t bother telling anyone!
Of course this unwillingness to commit, or this inability to keep to a commitment, is just a symptom of a wider malaise in our society isn’t it? And it’s seen most strongly I guess in the area we’re thinking about today - in the area of sexual relationships. We no longer have husbands and wives. We now have current life partners. We practise serial monogamy. And of course if you listen to the media, which most of us do too much probably, the message comes through loud and clear and often not very subtly: sleeping around is normal. "Try it before you buy it" is the dominant philosophy presented to us in all sorts of forums. We’re told you can’t be happy without sexual experience, of one sort or another, it doesn’t really matter. How often do you see older women on TV or in movies complaining that it’s so long since they had sex with someone - as though they can’t be happy without it. And it seems that people are buying it!
But what’s the reality behind this media campaign? Well the reality is people aren’t happy despite their experimentation with sex. In fact they seem to be all the more frustrated by the lack of fulfilment they find in either casual relationships or more permanent relationships that fall over at the first hurdle. What’s offered by our world, sexual encounters without the foundation of heartfelt love, is a counterfeit that never satisfies. It just leaves people wishing for more.
God’s solution: Promise Keeping
So what’s the solution? Well here’s where we come to the 7th commandment. This is the one that’s supposed to ruin your life, take all the fun away, leave you stuck in a rut, make you miserable. So what’s at the heart of this 7th commandment?
You may remember, if you were here, that when I began this series I said that the commandments are an expression of the character of God. They’re given to help us see what it means to be godly people. So what’s God like? Well, God is a God who keeps his promises, who remains faithful no matter how the objects of his love behave. So when he tells us not to commit adultery, at the first level he’s simply telling us that he expects us to do what he does: to remain faithful to the promises we made or will make on our wedding day.
But on top of that need to remain faithful is an underlying need to maintain our purity of heart and mind so we can avoid the temptation to fail in our faithfulness - and we’re going to think about that in a moment.
First though, we need to realise that sometimes it’s easier to make a promise than it is to keep it. Circumstances change; people change; or perhaps they don’t change, we just discover the truth about them that we hadn’t realised at first; external pressures are applied; and we find ourselves faced with temptations that are difficult to resist.
And of course we live in what Jesus described, even in his day, as a wicked and adulterous generation: one where faithfulness is no longer valued: in fact faithfulness is even laughed at as though it were old-fashioned, out of date; ours is an age where experimentation with several partners is prescribed for future happiness in marriage; where what I want at the moment is more important than what I promised back then. So how can we be helped to remain faithful and to keep our lives pure
1. God’s Good Gift of Sexuality
Let’s start at the very beginning: In Gen 1 we discover that God made them male and female. In Gen 2 the woman is made from the rib of the man, so their union is a kind of reunion, being remade into the one flesh from which they came. So we’re told, a man will cleave to his wife and they’ll become one flesh. That is, they form an organic unity, the way flour and milk and egg blend together to make a pancake batter. Once you’ve mixed them together it’s impossible to separate the parts. In other words there’s an indivisible nature to their relationship.