In our previous study, we examined Jesus’ first example of how the Pharisees had distorted the Law and how Jesus actually was in harmony with it. This first example was from the 6th Commandment, which negatively states “Thou shalt not murder.” We saw the positive side accentuated by Jesus, although the Pharisees concentrated exclusively on the negative. Jesus taught positively the sanctity and dignity of human beings created in the image of God. Thus we can say that not only is murder wrong, not only is abortion a violation of the sanctity of human life, but also anger and hatred and insulting human beings in the image of God is equally wrong. Furthermore and positively, we are to put a priority on eliminating enmity and making right our relationships with others. Thus Christ expounded the 6th Commandment on the sanctity of human life.
Next we move on to examine Jesus’ exposition of the 7th Commandment on the sanctity of sexuality. Remember this command, like the previous one, is not merely prohibitive or negative. It is also positive. We are not merely to avoid adultery, but beyond that we are to appreciate sexuality and thankfully enjoy it within the confines God gives.
In this part of Jesus’ sermon we’ll look briefly at two examples: Lust and Divorce. Both are related to God’s plan for sexuality within marriage.
Both also take the form we have observed in previous verses. “You’ve heard it said” refers to oral tradition put forth by Scribes/Pharisees. “But I say” gives Jesus’ true, authoritative meaning of Law.
In each example we would do well to analyze:
A. What the Scribes’ oral tradition put forth. There were two problems with their approach:
1. Regulations only were considered.
2. That approach reduces matters to punishments of their own devising.
B. How Jesus is opposed to that and seeks to restore a true interpretation and application of the law.
C. The true and positive thrust of the original law.
First a word of caution. To whom does this message in Jesus’ sermon apply? No reader should say, “This passage does not apply to me.” Don’t dismiss these applications just because you’re married or past the heyday of hormonal outburst. This sermon may well apply itself quickly to our high school and college students. It may immediately speak to those beginning a marriage or on the brink of a divorce, but it also applies to all of us because each commandment has an inward scope also.
The culture in which we live is one largely at direct odds with what Jesus teaches on sexuality. Think of how our movies, our advertisements and commercials, much contemporary music, TV, and literature (50 Shades of Grey), magazine racks, current thoughts on divorce — all of these have a unified thrust and appeal. The internet is creating new problems in this area, and parents should take precautions. An older minister confessed his lust to me, after finding pornography on the internet. He said he had a new understanding of Paul’s command to “flee youthful lusts.” Lust was not, he rediscovered, merely a problem for young people. All these appeal to one’s unbridled sexual pleasure. With this stimulation all around, we must beware of the problem and learn how to handle it. All of us at times are confronted with the temptation to ignore God’s teaching on the sanctity of sexual fidelity and we must learn how to defeat those temptations.
Let’s look at the first example concerning Lust.
In this example Jesus is not content with mere formal adherence to the 7th commandment; he stresses purity of heart. As with the last study, we quote from Barclay, “It is not only the forbidden action, but also the forbidden thought that is guilty in the sight of God.”