"THE suicide of the sexes" is what George Gilder termed the casual attitude toward morality exhibited by to day's "swinging society" in a recent is sue of Harper's. "When sex is devalued or deformed, as at present," he stated, "the quality of our lives declines and the social fabric unravels."
The growing emphasis on this under standing comes as quite a shock to advocates of the new morality who for years have been telling us, "We've tried the new morals and we haven't dis covered anything detrimental. The establishment has been deceiving you."
To this anti-authoritarian age, such commands as "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14) seem like dictatorial decrees without logic or reason. They ask, "Must we blindly obey merely because someone says so?" Does not even God say, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isa. 1:18)? Are there no logical reasons for the Biblical directives regarding adultery and immorality, or are they merely the dictates of an arbitrary authority?
When Jesus described the commandments to the lawyer, He said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). The last six of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationships to other human beings therefore Jesus would describe the seventh commandment as loving your neighbor as yourself. The question then becomes a simple one. When I think that I love my neighbor's wife and as a result commit adultery with her, do I by such an act demonstrate that I love her husband and her children?
But the reasons expressed in the Bible are far more intricate than this. The description of Jesus of the "spirit of the last commandment," "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" has a most intimate application to the marriage relationship. The closest neighbor we have is our spouse and we are counseled, "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it. ... For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. . . . Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself" (Eph. 5:28-33).
Since marriage is a union, a joining of two into one, a merging together so that one is identified with the other, anything that might injure one would in the same process harm the other who is united to that person. Therefore, anything that I do that hurts my wife would in the same process injure me. If this be true, a husband committing adultery, thereby causing heartache and other emotional injury to his wife, also in the process commits some injury to himself.
The concept presented here is that adultery is self-injurious and self-destructive. In these permissive times such a thought seems extremely radical. Is it? The "wise man" of the Bible who had hundreds of wives penned this bit of counsel: "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adventuress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread, but an adulteress stalks a man's very life. Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. Do not men despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry? And if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation, nor be appeased though you multiply gifts" (Prov. 6:23- 35, R.S.V.). A hungry man might steal bread because he has none, but why does a man with a wife commit adultery? What is the need? What is the logical cause, the wise man asks?
But the primary thought that we are pursuing is emphasized in the words, "An adulteress stalks a man's very life. . . . He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself" (Prov. 6:26-32, R.S.V.).
The adulterer destroys himself; he is a self-murderer. One commentator describes the adulterer's loss in these terms: "For whoever consents to adulterous converse with her, loses not perhaps his means, but certainly freedom, purity, dignity of soul, yea, his own person." "A self-murderer i.e. he intends to ruin his position and his prosperity in life. ... It is worst and most inextinguishable dishonoring of oneself." *
The veil of secrecy that shrouds such acts is constantly threatened by expo sure should the man decide to retreat. At his own home the adulterer who successfully conceals his duplicity is continuously endangered by the deception he practices with his own spouse as he seeks to convince her of his love. Often it is apparent to both women that he is merely satisfying his own lusts and that love is nowhere to be found in his amorous demonstrations. Eventually he himself becomes nearly incapable not only of demonstrating true love but even of comprehending it.
In marital love there seems to be some dimension or quality that is enhanced and grows as it is showered exclusively upon one person. To such true love there comes a natural response of returned love and affection. It is this "love returning" that warms the heart and makes us sense that we are desirable and accepted. It leads to more demonstrations of true love and then to more returned love, and onward the cycle leads higher and higher into a most intimate and exalted relationship. On the other side of the picture, adultery by either party breaks all of this, for in it there can be no expression of true love, since it is not exclusive the essential quality in marital love.
Distrusted by Everyone
In addition the adulterer finds him self as a man distrusted by everyone. He is like a wild animal on the loose and any man's wife is fair game to him. Why should others trust him when he has already robbed the affections of and misused another man's wife? His honesty and trustworthiness are questionable, for while vowing faithfulness to his spouse, he engages in intimacy with another woman in an act that is regarded by society as the symbol of supreme affection. How can he possibly have supreme affection for two persons?
But worst of all is the fact that he is vulnerable to the wiles of the women who, according to Solomon, "stalk" and "capture" a man. If a man already possessing a wife, who is able to satisfy his physical needs, can be tempted and aroused by the attractions of another woman so as to succumb to adultery, what is there to prevent him from doing the same thing with many other women as they allure him? How can he stop, since the attraction is merely an other female who arouses his lusts? He has become purely sensual, as low as animals and maybe worse, for many animals remain loyal to one mate for life.
But the results do not stop here. The apostle Paul broadens the effects of adultery and includes fornication in all its aspects. "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18). Any act of sexual intimacy, even outside of marriage, is also described as being a wrong committed against self with harmful effects on the individual.
Perhaps this is what James is talking about when he flatly declares: "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15).
Will the member of the holy body of Christ contaminate himself and also Christ's body by joining himself to that which is unholy in an act of intimacy? Such an act "adulterates" the pure and is most defiling. The Lord assures us that such disregard for the pure will meet with disaster. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3:17).
The Lord has designed that the separation between the holy and the unholy always be kept clear and distinct. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
In both the Old and New Testaments, the word holy is most frequently used to mean "that which is set apart, to be separate and distinct." Holy things were set apart for holy uses only. They were to be involved in sacred purposes and never in that which was common. So in the Scriptures we read of the holy temple, holy furniture and vessels for the temple, holy people, such as the first born and the children of Israel. Such are holy not because they are more righteous than others, but that the Lord the Holy One claims them uniquely as His very own because He has purchased them. They are the possession of the Holy One, and are therefore termed holy, meaning that they are exclusively His to be used in service for Him.
The Lord's command is that such distinctions are always to be made most prominent. Tragic results came to those who obliterated such separations. When Belshazzar misused the holy vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem for a drinking party, a bloodless hand wrote Babylon's sentence of doom on the palace walls.
When the common was used for sacred purposes in Bible times, the fate of the violator was often immediate. Do you recall what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they used strange or common fire for the holy service in the place of holy fire? Perhaps in our limited understanding of holiness, we have difficulty discerning the enormity of such insignificant acts and the resulting punishment; but if we will become as familiar with the holy as we are with the unholy, we will discover that the differences are as great as night and day.
We can even become like the Corinthians, to whom Paul addressed the many questions concerning such differences that we referred to in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17. When the clean is in any manner united with the unclean the unholy will defile the holy. It is so easy to make things dirty or unholy; but it requires a miracle on the part of the Creator to produce a new creature, created in righteousness and true holiness, from the corrupt man of sin (Eph. 4:22, 24). The new morality is a long way re moved from the Biblical principles.
A Link in a Chain of Commandments
The seventh commandment, when viewed from a certain perspective, appears to be one link in a chain of laws that involves respect and high regard for life. The most obvious link in this chain is the fourth, which, if followed in the spirit in which it was given, re minds us of the great source and Sustainer of all life, the Mighty Creator. Since all are indebted to Him for life, all are to worship Him (Rev. 14:7).
The fifth commandment, the next step in the sequence, teaches us to honor our parents to whom we are indebted for life and for the care they provided when we were totally incapable of supplying our own requirements.
The sixth commandment simply says, Do not take life; or, as more commonly stated, "Thou shalt not kill." I not only must appreciate and respect the life provided for me by the Creator and my parents but also the life of my neighbor, whom I am to love as myself. His life too must be precious to me. In each of these decrees, the God of life is teaching us the extreme value and the sacredness of life. It is to be highly esteemed and treated with the greatest respect.
The Omniscient One saw another aspect of respect for life of which we seldom think, when He wrote with His finger on those tablets of stone, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." One of the greatest honors the Creator bestowed upon man was the privilege of cooperating with Him in the production of new life. We have been endowed with life-producing mechanisms that enable humans in the intimate relationship of marriage to bring forth new life by giving birth to children. To make the honor even more exalted, these children are not merely like their parents, they are also in the image or likeness of God.
Adultery and fornication involve a misuse, a perversion, a corruption, of the purposes for which such life-producing organs were created; for usually the most unwanted aspect of such acts is the production of new life. Marriage establishes by love a new home with the intention of producing a family and thereby perpetuating the human family. But adultery and fornication have an opposite purpose. If the new morality should become the norm of society, the human race would eventually die for lack of children. Thus adultery or fornication is not life-giving but rather results in death.
Surely such practices cannot be the plan of the One who came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). How tragic that what many term "really living" is really dying, and what is often called "free love" is abject slavery to our own lusts.
Certainly a loving God who so loved us that He gave us His only Son to die that we might live, offers us something far better than such tragic results. His commands are not merely authoritarian demands of an all-powerful Lord, but they are the way of life. In His Word He gives us very logical reasons as to why He said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Each such reason is a blessing from Heaven intended to keep us from destroying ourselves.