Be Careful Little Eyes What You See
Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:27-30
October 25, 2015
I remember very vividly a conversation that I had one afternoon several years ago with a young couple who wanted to get married. I really didn’t know them at all. They had simply happened by the church I was serving at the time by chance. They were engaged, looking for a church in which to get married and our building struck them as a good choice for two reasons. First, it had beautiful street appeal. And second, our sanctuary had a center aisle. When they had inquired about getting married there, I had asked our secretary to schedule a meeting for me to sit down and visit with them.
As I stared across my desk at this handsome, young couple, I asked them the same question that I typically asked all couples who came our way wanting to get married but with no connection to our church. “Tell me,” I said, ‘why do you want to get married here?” “Of all of the possible venues, why is it important for you to get married in a church?”
Now, there are all sorts of answers to that question and I had heard a number of them. Generally speaking, every couple whom I have asked that question has come up with some type of response even if was an answer given right off of the top of their heads. But, up until that point and ever since for that matter, I have not encountered a couple like this one who upon hearing the question, simply stared at each other and then back at me with a long period of silence before both admitting that they had no idea whatsoever. In a very honest, straightforward way, they both confessed that they really didn’t know why being married in a church or by a minister was important to them other than the fact that it simply seemed like what you were supposed to do.
I share that because I think this is where a lot of folks are in life. And, quite frankly, I think this is where lots of people who say that they are Christians find themselves as well. We say that God should be a part of our marriages and our intimate relationships but we really don’t know why that is the case.
In fact, at times, we are even good at saying what the church is against when it comes to marriage. But, again, we really don’t know what the church is affirming or what the church is in favor of when we connect faith and marriage.
In turn today, I want to approach the seventh command from this vantage point. For without question, each of the ten commandments while speaking about what God opposes are also in essence saying what God is for and what we as the people of God should be for at the same time. And so, in a day when we as Christians can articulate what we are against when it comes to the sacred nature of marriage, can we articulate what we are affirming when we connect the two? When the question is asked of us, “Why is it so important for church, faith and marriage to go hand in hand, what are we to say?”
Let me offer three ideas that we should always affirm both in terms of our own marriages and also in terms of how we approach and encourage others and their own thinking about marriage. First, what we are saying here, is that we affirm that marriage is holy. When we as the church bless a man and a woman as they become husband and wife, when we affirm that decision in the church, when we pray that God would bless them and their home, what we are saying is that marriage is a holy act.
Remember, already in this series on the Ten Commandments, we have been clear that holiness implies two distinct ideas. On the one hand, holiness implies something that is sacred and worthy of our worship. But, holiness also means something that is different, set apart, unique and not like the norm. This is the whole point that God wanted to drive home with the Israelites over and over again in the Old Testament. Why did they have distinct dietary laws? Why did they have their own set of moral codes that were often higher than the society around them? Why were they called to have a higher regard for one another? Because they were different, they were not like everyone else.
For us to say that marriage is holy is to say that when people of faith marry and when we ask God to bless and be a part of our lives together, we are pledging to live differently than the rest of the culture. We are saying that we have higher expectations of our spouse and of ourselves and we are saying that we will live by a higher set of laws and commands. Our goal is not to simply to treat each other as society says that we should. Instead, our goal is to treat one another as God says that we should. If our goal as people of faith is simply to live like everyone else and to approach our marriages like everyone else then we are missing the whole point of who God calls us to be. For believers, marriage is holy which creates lofty expectations but at the same time, gives us the best chance at experiences the very best that our marriage vows and most significant relationships for that matter have to offer.
Second, we are saying that as people of faith, our marriages and our bodies belong to God. Remember, when we speak of accepting Christ into our lives we are affirming that the Holy Spirit has come to take up residence in our very being. We affirm this through believer’s baptism where we through water not only wash clean our lives but where we also bury an old life without Christ and raise up a new life with Christ. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that our bodies are now the temple of the living God. God no longer resides simply in a place; God now resides in each of us. All of this is a way of saying that we are no longer our own. That both come with great joy and high expectation. The joy is found in knowing that we are never alone. As God’s children, God through the Holy Spirit will be with us every step of the way. At the same time, the expectation is that we treat our bodies as what they are – the residence of the living God. And, let us make no mistake about it, this doesn’t simply relate to what we do with our bodies in terms of sexual ethics, it also has to do with how we care for our body, what we put into our body and how we treat our body. In terms of marriage, however, God expects us to reserve our body for one person and to live out that deepest physical connection only within the context of marriage.
With these first two affirmations that marriage is holy and that our body’s are not our own, I am reminded of a scene from the movie Miracle starring Kirk Russell. You may remember that Miracle focuses on the story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team that unexpectedly and shockingly defeated the mighty Soviet Union team. The American coach was Herb Brooks and Kirk Russell plays him in the film. The entire American roster for the team was made up of college players and there is a point in the movie where Russell as Brooks takes the players one by one and asks them who they play for. Naturally, the various players began to name the colleges where they played – Boston University, Notre Dame, Michigan and the other great hockey schools of the time. Brooks continued to ask the question until one player finally gets it and says, “I play for the United States of America”. Herb Brooks was trying to get them to recognize that things were different. Now that they were on the US Olympic team, they no longer played for themselves or for their college, they now played for something greater – for their country.
In essence that is what we are saying. We are now about something greater than any of us. We are members of God’s family and we have committed ourselves to God’s ways. Thus, our marriages are holy and our bodies ultimately belong to God which is to say that we have a higher calling, higher expectations and a different level of meaning at play in our lives. This is what we are affirming.
But, finally, we are also affirming that we are human and that we must never forget that we are susceptible to a failure. As believers, we affirm that we are imperfect. This is true in marriage and in all aspects of life. We are here this morning because we are not perfect, we don’t have it all together and we are prone to mess up. We affirm this as believers – we don’t ignore it, we don’t deny it, we don’t act like this isn’t true. Thus to ask for God’s blessing in marriage is to ask God from the very beginning to be strong where we are so very prone to weakness.
Why was adultery one of the Ten Commandments? Because it was an issue then just like it is now. Why did Jesus say it isn’t simply the act but it is also what we see and begin to think about that is equally dangerous? Because he recognized that even the most innocent of actions can lead to terrible results.
Of course, the seventh commandment and Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, received the most airtime in modern American history in 1976 when then Presidential Candidate Jimmy Carter said that he had looked at a lot of women in the wrong way over the years. He had not broken the seventh commandment per se but he had broken Jesus’ deeper calling in Matthew 5 to be careful with our eyes. Of course, Carter was lampooned as a religious fanatic and his words were seen as ridiculous for no one could raise to such a level of ethical behavior. But, what was missed was his honest faithful response that this is just the point. We are indeed prone to failure but admitting it is not a sign of our weakness, it is a sign of our maturity in recognizing that those least willing to admit their fallibility are most likely to fall. Ask God to help us have good marriages is not about saying we are perfect, it is frankly recognizing that just the opposite it true. Amen.