Protection And Forgiveness For The Gifts Of Marriage And Sex

Text: Exodus 20:1-17 and Matthew 5:27-32

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the previous Midweek Lenten sermons, we have heard that the Lord is all about protecting particular gifts that He gives to us.  He protects His gifts to us through His divine commandments.  Yes, the Ten Commandments are like protective fences that guard God’s gifts.  They are intended to safeguard the gifts of: rest, authority, life, a good reputation, property, and so forth.  However, when the commandments are broken due to sin, God’s gifts are tragically polluted, abused, and twisted. 

As we continue our journey towards Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we continue our series on the Ten Commandments—God’s Ten Words for you and for me.  More specifically, though, this evening we will be moving on from the Fifth and Eighth Commandments to the Sixth Commandment. 

The Sixth Commandment states,

          “You shall not commit adultery.”

In the Sixth Commandment, God protects the great gift of marriage.  That is to say, each person’s spouse is a gift from God.  The institution of marriage itself is also a great gift.  In that light, God’s design for marriage is that the husband and wife should fear and love the Lord, so that they lead a sexually pure and decent life in what they say and do.  That is to say, with the gift of marriage, one will also find the gift of sexuality.  Marriage and sexuality go hand in hand, for where you find the gift of marriage, you will also find the gift of sexuality. 

With all of this stated, we must keep in mind that sex—yes, sex—is a good thing, because it is designed by God for a husband and wife.  God loves marriage; God loves sex.  Sex is the best expression of love between a husband and a wife in marriage. But like all gifts, sex can be mistreated. 

Sadly, sex has been and is corrupted by mankind’s sin.  Thus, when the gift of sex is abused, there are some very negative, serious, and long lasting spiritual and physical consequences, consequences especially upon the institution of marriage. 

But how is the gift of sex abused?  We first must keep in mind that “sex between two people is one of two things: marriage or adultery.”[1]  It is really that black and white.  Sex inside of marriage is good, right, and salutary.  Sex outside of marriage, regardless of the age, circumstances, feelings, and excuses, is bluntly stated, ‘adultery.’  Indeed, sex outside of the institution of marriage between a man and woman is precisely what the Sixth Commandment is addressing.

Just in case you are attempting to create some sort of justification or loophole to the Sixth Commandment, our Gospel reading from tonight closes all escape routes.  Jesus opens the meaning of the Sixth Commandment in tonight’s reading when He says

“I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

What this means is that, “Committing adultery doesn’t just involve physical infidelity; it also involves cheating that occurs even in our minds.”[2]  For example, “Rather than thinking of pornography as a quick thrill, we need to see it for what it is: a ‘virtual’ way to cheat on your spouse.  Even if you’re not married, pornography still warps your sexual expectations, which always affects your future relationships.”[3]

The Sixth Commandment is about physical adultery and adultery found in the heart and mind, as well. 

It would be easy at this point to simply assume that the Sixth Commandment is just a sexual killjoy.  That is to say, that the Sixth Commandment is all about spoiling a good time.  We may even be inclined to label the Sixth Commandment as an irrelevant, stuffy, and old-fashioned sexual ethic that idealistic grandparents once held to.  Otherwise stated, we may be tempted to simply write the Sixth Commandment off, as an ethic of the years gone by, and simply too unreasonable for our modern day and age. 

Dear friends, we have to keep in mind that “Sexual sin is as old as sin itself.  Even a brief glance through the Old Testament demonstrates that sinner have been sinning ever since Eden.  God wouldn’t have given us [the Sixth Commandment] forbidding adultery if sexual temptation were not an issue even way back then.”[4]

With that stated though, “Sexually speaking, our world is a mess right now.  Sure, there’s been unbridled sensuality before in history, but things have gone up a notch.  Setting aside basic biology, we’ve effectively redefined marriage as sexual pleasure and emotional commitment, even opening it to same-sex couplings.  And in the name of sexual freedom, we’ve gone still further.  We’ve deconstructed and dismantled sex itself.”[5]

 As a result of our sexually rebellious hearts, we have wreaked havoc on our society, on our lives, and on our families: 
·        …Approximately 15.3 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year.
·        …Nearly 16,000 deaths due to STDs each year.
·        …A culture that is overly saturated with sensuality and eroticism
 ·        …A porn industry that is bigger than the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball combined. 
·        …Divorce 
·        …Split-families 
·        …Loss of friends and family 
·        …Injury to children
·        …Emotional pain 
·        …Mental exhaustion 
·        …Guilt 
·        …Shame 
·        …Fear
·        …Eternal Damnation
…And the list of consequences due to sexual sins could go on and on and on and on.

This is the whole point of the Sixth Commandment.  The Sixth Commandment is God putting a protective fence around your neighbor’s spouse and around your spouse as well, to protect you from unnecessary pain, hardships, and grief.   And He’s also protecting us whether we are single or married from using our bodies in ways offensive to Him, and from seeing other people as sexual objects to be used and abused at will.  God makes it crystal clear, if you are married…your spouse alone is for you, and if you are single… it’s hands off until you are married.

From the Sixth Commandment we can see how highly God honors marriage.  And we can also see how much we despise it.  Sex outside of marriage is widely accepted, but don’t think for a minute that it is therefore pleasing or right in God’s eyes.

The only proper place for sex is in the trusting bonds of marriage between one man and one woman.  When husband and wife love and honor each other, it is the holiest work a husband and wife can do.   Randy Newman teaches on this saying,
“Within marriage God blesses the husband and wife in total voluntary vulnerability. In this marriage bond the husband and wife are allowed to be intimately free and find acceptance in each other. Over time instead of ridicule, oneness emerges where acceptance and unashamed love captivates the couple.”
He goes on to say,

“By protecting the intimacy of sex from pollutants and keeping it bound in the covenant of marriage, a husband and wife can heal each other in their deepest areas of pain. They get to bind together what has been shattered from life, serving each other within the shadow of the Cross.”

Dear brothers and sisters, we fail in such love and honor.  We do not observe the protective fences that the Lord has put up.  We have sexually sinned in thought, in word, and in deed.  We have let the desires and lusts of the flesh control us.  We have followed the desires and lusts of the flesh and have disregarded God’s  Word in the Sixth Commandment. 

Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.

There is Good News for you and for me.  The Good News is that in Christ and His love, all things are made new. 

For the baptized who daily confess their sins and daily live in the grace of Christ Jesus, there is restoration every day. 

So what do you do if you have had many partners or just one outside of marriage?  [What do you do if you struggle with porn or wandering eyes to those not your spouse?]  Repent; you are forgiven and redeemed in Christ Jesus.  Even for those [of you] who carry various consequences in the [body due to sexual sins], there is full redemption, forgiveness and mercy in Christ Jesus.”[6] 

Dear friends, you are baptized.  Know that your true identity is found in being a baptized child of Christ, not in the chaos of sexual sin.

Dear Baptized Saints, Jesus has paid for all your sins in full—including your sexual sins—not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death (Small Catechism).

Dear Baptized Saints, your sexual sins are erased; you are covered by the white radiance, purity, and holiness of Jesus. 

Dear Baptized Saints, yes your sexual sins and every single sin from the past, present, and future is buried deeply in the wounds of Jesus. 

Blameless, you are!  Holy and righteous Saints, you are!  Called in purity; set apart in honor and integrity, in the midst of this sexually depraved world.

Gifted the Lord’s blessed favor of sex and marriage!  Gifted, forgiven, and protected indeed!

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Theodore Cook, “Sin-Corrupted Sex: Is the Sixth Commandment just a sexual killjoy?” The Lutheran Witness, February 2015.

[2] Jon Olson, “The Smoldering Wick” The Lutheran Witness, February 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Harold Senkbeil, “Love among the Ruins: How do we reclaim sexual virtue in a depraved world?” The Lutheran Witness, February 2015.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Craig Donofrio, “It’s Just Sex,” The Lutheran Witness, February 2015.

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