St. Aidan’s Sermons
The Rev. Deacon Linda Stokes, March 20, 2011
Lent 1; 8:30 Holy Communion and 10:00 a.m. Litany & Holy Communion
The Ten Commandments #6: “Adultery”
Hosea 2:2-8, 14-15; Matthew 5:27-32
Heavenly Father, I pray for protection of all of our hearts as we listen to your word on Adultery. May your word gently guide us to a place of restoration within your love, in the full knowledge of your truth. Come Holy Spirit come. Amen
One day looong ago, I was approached by two fellow grade five students, who asked me: Are you a virgin? I thought about the question and thinking that the only virgin I knew of, was the Virgin Mary and I didn’t think I had anything in common with her so…I answered no. My response was met with much laughter, and I was left feeling humiliated, confused and shamed. Today if you asked me: Linda, are you an adulteress? My response would be what is your meaning of adultery? Time and experience has broadened my thinking. Adultery is a complex subject. A survey of our congregation could come up with many meanings such as sexual infidelity both within and outside of marriage, or variations of lust of the eyes, heart or mind. To me, adultery is more of a concept, which undermines the covenant of marriage and Christianity itself. This state of undermining can come in many forms. Let me give you an example. Two monks journeying home came to the banks of a fast flowing river, where they met a young woman unable to cross alone. One of the monks picked her up in his arms and set her down safely on the other side and then the two monks continued on their travels. The monk who crossed the river alone, could finally restrain himself no longer and began to rebuke his brother, “Do you not know it is against our rules to touch a young woman? You have broken the holy vows.” The other monk answered “Brother, I left that young woman on the banks of the river. Are you still carrying her?” Evil lurks at the doorway of our eyes and mind seeking entrance into our hearts. The question is not are you an adulterer, the question is what are you carrying in your heart. Today, Internet pornography is the evil ones prime strategy in attacking our covenant relationships.
Pornography is defined as printed or visual material containing explicit sexual activity intended to stimulate erotic feelings. In other words, it is a tool which when viewed usurps the role of the marriage relationship. Pornography is adultery of the eyes and the heart. Matthew 5:27 say everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. This link between the eyes and heart points to the integration of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual makeup. Lust involves all components of our being and the practice of adulterous lust slowly erodes our Christian identity. As I researched this act of detached visual orgasmic fulfillment, I became more and more distraught, and so I come before you today with a lamenting heart. It is not my intention to stir up guilt or offend but to speak out for the victims of this insidious disease. Did you know that Porn revenue is $57 billion per year, there are 4.2 million porn websites, 25% of search engine requests are for porn sites, the average age of first internet porn viewers is 11, the largest consumer age group is 12-17, 72% of visitors are male and at least 10% of Christian men are compulsively attracted to porn? Internet Porn brings sin to a new depth of depravity in its sheer availability and use.
Porno-abusers justify their actions by believing the following lies: Pornography doesn’t hurt anyone. Sexual domination is more enjoyable than mutual sexual pleasure between equals. Pornography offers intimacy. Sex is primarily for self-gratification. The operative word here is ‘self’.
The truth is that porno-abusers denigrate the innocent, the vulnerable, and the marginalized with every lustful act. In Winnipeg, the average sexually exploited child is an uneducated, destitute street-smart aboriginal female, who started being exploited at the age of 14. These victims are just like the girls in our school! The truth about the sexual domination lie is only revealed when we look at the dynamics of the act. Think about it. The perpetrator is in complete control, no relationship but self, no threat, no give and take and this is enjoyment! This is nothing but narcissism. It makes a mockery of the marriage covenant.
In the movie, Fireproof a couple are brought to the verge of divorce because of the husband’s addiction to pornography. His behaviour threatened his relationship with his wife. Unbeknown to him, what he was watching was leading his heart not only away from his wife but also away from his first love, Jesus Christ. Many of you saw the movie on Friday evening. The husband Caleb Holt is a heroic fire captain, who values dedication and service to others but puts no work into nurturing his marriage. He dreams of owning a fast, streamlined boat. He imagines himself in the drivers seat rushing across the open water. Every payday he puts money aside in anticipation of one day realizing his dream. He uses the Internet to look at boats. He also uses the Internet to look at women. His wife is left wondering how and when she failed to be good enough for him. The result is dis-harmony, anger, confusion and fear. The negative energy between Caleb and his wife has built up a communication wall between them. Neither side is talking. This in turn helps to shape an attitude of suspicion and confrontation (video clip).
How is it that a son, who has a successful job, who is respected in the community, who is loved by his family, who is a cherished husband, turns to the Internet? What is so enticing, that he would risk his marriage? The fact is that Internet pornography is easy, available, affordable, and private. It is seemingly a harmless way of fantasizing away loneliness, boredom and stress. What is seen with the eyes, feeds the imagination, at first it is just curiosity but the need for more and more detached arousal becomes addicting. Then the lies and the cover up start, the relationships fall away, the dreams take on a new slant. Duty to family is compartmentalized in order to rationalize the practice. The person being viewed is objectified in order to justify the act. The abuser’s eyes, which have been trained to objectify are the same ones that are taken into the marriage bed. Only what they see there, is never the same. A marriage partner, usually the wife, who is viewed with ‘practiced unsanctified eyes’ instinctively, senses the insincerity and cover-up. What God has created and blessed, is no more. This is abuse of God’s gift of life.
And what about the pornography models? What happens to them? Like all victims of abuse they lose their sense of identity little by little in every act, which treats them like a commodity. What about the perpetrator? What happens to him? When the porno-abuser succeeds in mentally de-personalizing the model from being a victim to being an object, a non-person, he loses his own honour and integrity as a man of God. By detaching himself from the consequences of his actions, he becomes the point person for the evil one, in a direct attack on God’s truth. Pornography is a vicious circle of evil!
When I hear of the pornographic statistics, which confirm the denigration of children and young women, my heart cries out “That child could be my child, that girl could be my daughter, that abuser could be my son! Lord help us! Do you know what God’s response was to my breaking heart? He said, “Linda, they are all my children and my heart is breaking too.”
Internet porno-abuse crucifies the souls of both its victims and its abusers. Every time a computer clicks open a doorway into a porno-site, death lurks.
The Bible says that at Christ’s crucifixion, one of the guards took a spear and pierced Jesus side. This practice was done to ensure the body had died. If fluid came out, then it was assumed that the lungs were full and suffocation had taken place. As I thought about this act of which confirms death, I could hear the guard’s internal conversation with his ego: Lets get this over with; I have to get home to my family and kids. I’ve had enough for today, “ We stripped him and whipped him and spat on him and verbally poked fun at him. Let’s make sure he is dead. Then we can dump the body and get this whole business over with”. I wanted to shout: That’s not just a body, that my Jesus! Then I realized that the guard did not know Christ. To him Christ was just another criminal sentenced to death on the cross. The irony is that Christ knew him; Christ loved him; Christ died for him. After all the guards very life was a gift from God.
It occurred to me that every time a pornographic image of a child, a teen, a youth, a woman is viewed, the porno-abuser is symbolically puncturing the body of Christ because he has lusted with his eyes, committed adultery with his heart and denigrated one of God’s children. The abuser refuses to see his victim as a human being. He does not see that every child is a potential daughter; every teen is a potential sister, every woman a potential mother.
God’s commandment to not commit adultery is given to us as a way of protection. In the movie Caleb’s father asks him to read a book called the Love Dare. It is a 40-day practice of how to love your spouse. It comes complete with scripture passages and explanations. Like the Bible, it is a guide to right Christian behavior within the marriage relationship. Caleb takes the challenge in essence because he loves his dad. At first he is a reluctant practitioner, but eventually his heart is receptive. He gives up the Internet. Violently, smashing his computer. He gives up his dream. Secretly, giving all of his savings towards the purchase of medical equipment for his wife’s mother. More importantly, he falls to his knees and with tears in his eyes he gives up his adulterous heart to Jesus. He gouges out evil by cutting off its access. Spiritually this is when Jesus washes away his sin, enabling Caleb, to see things differently. He becomes a new man in Christ’s love, no longer bend with evil in his heart but with an overflowing abundance of love. This love is a welcomed change for a wife, beaten down by a rejection she could not fight on her own. In the end, his wife gives her heart back to him and they both renew their vows before God. I love happy endings !
God calls us to not commit adultery in any form, but I suspect if we are the least bit honest, that many here have experienced the lure and excitement of lust at some time in the process of growing up. For most, it is a fleeting sin, but for some it is a hook, which leads to personal and spiritual bankruptcy. The relational fall out is a far reaching one. Families are broken up, in-laws are isolated, church families divided. As the saying goes no one wins but the lawyers.
Adultery especially hurts the victims of every trade, which support sexual gratification outside the sanctity of marriage whether that is prostitution, pornography or casual consensual sex. Most of us know about the numbers of divorces in society because we live it. Few families have not been wounded by the break up of a marriage. I would guess that we are not totally ignorant about pornography either, because hard-core porn fines its seed in the soft porn of the media which we see every day. We see the pin-up pictures in our newspapers; we watch movies and plays about forbidden sexual affairs. We buy books about people in the throes of adulterous emotional traumas. We listen to songs that encourage us to love the one we are with, if we are not with the one we love and the worst is, that the church is now in the secular game of self help, promoting sex in the marriage bed. I may be old-fashioned but is nothing sacred anymore? Our society, our world is fixated on sex!
So where is our hope? Lets say this together. Saint Paul says “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1).
If we are to discern the enemy and fight this physical, mental, spiritual war we cannot do it on our own. We need each other, we need our families, we need our faith community and we need Jesus Christ. The law says that adultery is a sin-do not do it. Jesus says go and sin no more. The cross says that the love of God conquers all sin. As Children of God, we carry the light of Christ within each of our hearts. Let us stand together in his light remembering that he who is with us is mightier that he who is against us (2 Kings 6:16).
I want to close by praying for the victims of adultery. I realize the enormity of this subject. I have probably given seed to more questions than answers. I will leave printed material in the narthex and as always will be available for further discussion. I invite you now to pray with me in the silence of your heart. Lord you know the pain of adultery, the betrayal, the broken words, the fractured trust, the confusion & fear, the isolation & shame of being used, ignored. You know the loss of innocence, the deadening of vulnerability. Come Lord Jesus and wash this pain, from our souls, fill us with your love, your peace, help us to take our rightful place as your child, always loved, always honoured always held close. The beloved come home.
In Jesus, name. Amen.