Don’t Be Seduced By Sex
Posted by Ros Clarke, 14 Mar 2018
The seventh commandment is intended to maximise our enjoyment of life, not to limit our fun, argues Ros Clarke in this Lent blogpost from our series Believing, Living, Praying.
The seventh commandment
“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
Why are Christians obsessed with sex? Surely what happens in someone’s bedroom is none of anyone else’s business?
Certainly we should notice that of the Ten Commandments only one is explicitly concerned with sex (though the tenth commandment also has relevance), and it’s by no means at the top of the list. God’s commands are concerned with the whole of life, and we should be careful not to make it seem as though our sex lives are the only things that matter to God.
Nevertheless, God is concerned with our sex lives. Here he commands the Israelites not to commit adultery. Later in the law, this command is expanded so that it is not just about extra-marital affairs. The Israelites must not commit incest, must not commit rape, must not commit bestiality, and must not have sex with people of the same gender (Leviticus 18).
Why does God care?
First, because God cares about families. God created human beings to be in family units: a man, his wife, their children (Genesis 2:24). God established his special people, the Israelites as a family unit (Genesis 15:4-5). The family unit, as we have already seen, is a reflection of God himself: Father, Son and Spirit.
But adultery breaks up family units. Incest devastates the normal order of family life. Rape is a travesty of the sexual love that should seal a marriage. Bestiality is a clear perversion of the family unit. And homosexual sex cannot be the foundation for a family.
Second, because sex is a God-given gift, and like all of God’s gifts, it is best enjoyed in the way the maker intended. He does not give rules about when and with whom to have sex in order to limit our enjoyment, but in order to maximise it.
For the Israelites, this attitude to sex would have set them apart from the nations around them. Prostitution, rape, adultery, incest and homosexual sex were part of the culture at that time, just as they are today. God wanted his people to act differently. God still wants his people to act differently.
How is the seventh commandment a mirror?
The Bible teaches us that our relationship with God is like a marriage. There is a period of courtship and betrothal, and a covenant promise, followed by faithless adultery on the part of the Israelites, while God was always faithful to his people.
And so God sent the bridegroom himself, Christ, to win his bride by laying down his life for her. As Christians, we are living in anticipation of the wedding day and the consummation of that relationship. Sex is the nearest human experience to the joy and love we will experience when we are together with Christ.
Sex is not something we should mess around with. It’s not something we can try out in any way we feel like. God didn’t invent sex primarily for our immediate enjoyment, but to teach us what it is we have to look forward to. It will only do that if we’re having sex in the way that God established. Our faithfulness to God should be matched by our faithfulness in marriage.
How is the seventh commandment a deterrent?
Sex is tempting. Sex is seductive. Sex promises so much. Sex lies and tells us that it does no harm.
We need to be told that adultery is wrong because we are so easily deceived into thinking that it is okay.
We need to be reminded that God hates adultery because he is always faithful.
We need to see that God loves families and adultery devastates families. We need to recognise the destruction that can be caused by sex in the wrong time, with the wrong person, in the wrong context.
You shall not commit adultery.
How does the seventh commandment set a standard for our behaviour?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28).
Once again Jesus raises the bar. Not merely sexual activity, but sexual desire can count as adultery.
What does it mean to look at someone lustfully? It means to want them, to fantasise about them, to be undressing them in your mind. I don’t think it means simply acknowledging someone’s attractiveness, but I do think it can be an easy step from admiration to lust.
Our society makes that step very, very easy indeed. Both men and women are depicted in adverts, on TV and in films in overtly sexual ways. Even children are regularly exposed to sexual content online and in social media. Our standards of what is acceptable are constantly changing, based on the world around us. But God’s standards do not change.
Keeping the seventh commandment won’t always be easy. It will set us apart from other people. It will make us look weird and prudish.
Sometimes we’ll mess up. Sometimes we’ll be seduced into believing the lies. Sometimes we’ll know what we’re doing is wrong and do it anyway.
That’s when we’ll need to repent and be forgiven: “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Questions for reflection:
1. How are God’s rules about sex designed to maximise enjoyment rather than limit it?
2. Why do we need this commandment?
3. What do you need to repent of and seek God’s forgiveness for?
Prayer: Loving Father, thank you for your good and gracious laws which teach us the best way to live in your world. Forgive us, Lord, for the ways in which we have failed to meet your standards. Please guard us and guide us as we seek to be faithful to you in our sexuality. Amen.
Ros Clarke is Associate Director of Church Society
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