The 7th commandment forbids adultery. Jesus famously expanded the meaning of adultery to include forbidden desire spurred on by the eyes. This expansion has become a bit of difficulty in a world that has learned that the more closely a sneaker corporation can link their product to the image of a woman wearing said sneakers without clothes on, the higher their sales numbers will be. Desire begets desire - even without rational connections. But there it is. We live in a world that has gone to war with anything likened to norms or ordered loves and so we have sexual chaos, and more specifically, chaotic and disordered desire.
I keep finding the commandments (which we’ve been preaching through at Trinity on Sundays) punching beyond where they seem to be aiming, and the 7th is no different. God simply understands these creatures He made called humans. His rules are well, true and wise and good. Such that when you reject that God made these creatures, and therefore treat his rules as the interesting or even well-meaning artifacts of bygone religious cultures you begin to find yourself behaving as a very serious fool. You will find your entire culture behaving as a very foolish culture. You will find that the hubris of such humans expands rather vigorously. So while we’ve been busy violating the 7th commandment for pretty much forever, we’ve now started calling said commandment stupid and even foolish. Sexually repressive. Nadia Bolz-Weber-Weber (formerly the pastor of House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver) recently refused to condemn the use of “responsibly sourced pornography.” It seems our wisdom has surpassed the wisdom of Jesus and the Ten Commandments.
The result: The West now seems to be irretrievably confused about sex, but not just sex. It is deeply confused about desire. It is deeply confused about identity. It is deeply confused about genitalia- which is simply to say that it is deeply confused about the nature of reality.
And much of the evangelical western church has been busy asking a vital question during this time, but we keep healing the wound lightly. The church has been busy asking with ever increasing empathy: How do we communicate God’s love in a world like ours? The more sophisticated among us change “world like ours” to “to a post Christian secular world” (because we read Charles Taylor’s immensely helpful tome The Secular Age, and picked up his language without picking up his sense.) But the Bible answer tends to be far more abrupt than our answer. The bible’s answer is the word “repent.” This means to joyfully, whilst practicing a robust and costly hospitality, tell people to stop living and thinking and philosophizing and voting and eating and sexing as if God didn’t make the world. And that they should do this because this God is merciful and kind and loves us very much and has dealt with our sins in the body and blood of Jesus. Instead of saying and embodying all of that we muddy the waters as much as possible by capitulating to much of what is simply high-handed rebellion. We often bend over backwards to create plausibility and understanding and to empathize with what amounts to attitudes and behaviors that are suicidal and blatantly sin.
But repentance doesn’t create plausibility structures around rebellion. Love doesn’t create space for people to relish increasingly foolish and destructive confusion. Love calls people to be reconciled to God, and such reconciliation requires repentance. In other words, the way you communicate the love of God in a world like ours, is you tell people to repent. You tell them to stop believing blasphemous and suicidal lies about the universe, about sex, about what God is there or not there, and about what their lives and bodies are for.
So the Law of God, contained in these Ten Commandments, isn’t simply an arbitrary list of religious and moral rules. They are strands that contain the whole world. Pull on one of them and the whole fabric of society starts to come unraveled. Pull on one and families and relationships and politics and everything in your deeply personal as well as public life starts to unravel. These aren’t simply legalisms, they are the very wisdom of God.