In a culture that celebrates sex and being sexy, today’s passage speaks directly into the world that we live in. We live in a world that seeks at every turn to take sex out of its proper context. From ads for fast food to swimsuits of sports magazines, there are innumerable ways for eyes and hearts to wander from where they are supposed to be. In my years of ministry, speaking to guys about their problems with lust has been one of the most counseling conversations that I have had. It is a huge problem, and it is not going away anytime.
In our passage today, once again we see that Jesus is not just concerned with our actions. It is our hearts that he has in focus in this passage. We could find ourselves congratulating ourselves because we have not committed adultery in its definition form. Nothing improper has happened with another woman or another man. On the surface it would appear that we have excelled in righteousness in regards to faithfulness to our spouse.
Unfortunately, Jesus explains that this law spoke to a different reality. In this case, the definition of adultery is expanded to incorporate any act where we have impure thoughts about another woman or man. Suddenly we see that adultery in Jesus’s definition is much easier to commit. Even when someone mentally surrenders to the temptation of impure thoughts, then they have crossed a line that God has established.
When someone looks on someone other than their spouse with impure thoughts, they have chosen to take the emotions and desires for their spouse and give them to another person. They have chosen to give a part of their heart to another, even if no actions follow it. This act chips away at the foundation of a marriage or a relationship. It also breaks our commandment to love the other person with the love of Christ. We must understand that it is not harmless or inconsequential. It is a degree of unfaithfulness.
Now, there are some side issues that must be discerned. Just as Jesus called out anger as murder, we may need to understand that here too this adultery through thoughts ought to be thought of differently in terms of consequences just as a murder would have different consequences than anger. While both are sin, a single sin of looking on another woman lustfully would not seem to be the type of unfaithfulness that should end a marriage. Obviously it is a violation of trust and forgiveness would be needed, but when someone falls in this area, there is a danger to take things to extremes. In our world of images there are many places for men and women to fall. Regardless, the call to purity is there.
In the Beatitudes we are called to be a people who are pure of heart. The pursuit of purity has an external and internal component. One of the ways that we seek purity is to ensure that we are dwelling on things that are good and uplifting. A great step in seeking purity is to address the impure content that we experience. Maybe it means not watching particular movies or listening to particular songs. Maybe it means not visiting particular websites or reading certain books. Today spend some time considering how well your life lines up with Philippians 4:8 which reads:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.