"The Suicide of the Sexes"

The seventh commandment is one link in a chain of laws that involves respect and high regard for life.

J.  W.  Lehman is pastor of the Campus Hill church in Loma Linda, California

"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.


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J.  W.  Lehman is pastor of the Campus Hill church in Loma Linda, California

March 1976

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