Bible Passage: Matthew 5:27-32
This passage continues the theme that Jesus has been exploring of how the lifestyle of his followers should go beyond that of the religious leaders of the day. Whilst they were focussed on outward conformity to a particular standard, and keen to impose this on others, Jesus was looking for something very different and wanted to see his followers transformed on the inside so they were living an authentic life that honoured God. In these verses we have the next case study, which looks at the area of marriage and relationships.
Looking at Others Without Lust: For the religious leaders, the main focus was actions and in particular the command not to commit adultery. They had in mind married people (and likely married men), and so long as they didn’t sleep with somebody other than their wife then they saw themselves as keeping the law. Whilst it is totally true, that those who are married should be faithful to their spouse, Jesus knew that there was more to it than that. It is possible to be faithful in marriage or celibate in singleness but to be addicted to porn or have a mind full of lust for others. Doing this is akin to indulging the adultery at the level of the heart even if not physically. It is destructive to the person lusting, demeaning to the one being lusted after, dishonouring to the spouse (if the person is married) and disobedient to God. Jesus insists that we pay careful attention not only to our actions but also to our thought lives.
Fight For Holiness: To follow up on this teaching, Jesus employs some hyperbole to encourage us to do whatever it takes to cut out the temptations to sin. In James 1:14-15, the links are made between temptation, desire, sin and destruction and the call is to break that chain as early as possible. Jesus uses the examples of chopping off a hand or gouging out an eye that cause sin, but in real terms this may come down to breaking off a relationship, deleting an app or avoiding going to particular places that make it harder to battle against lust.
Take Marriage Seriously: Verses 31-32 continue to reflect on the commandment about adultery and the issue of divorce. This teaching is developed further in Matthew 19:1-10, but Jesus is pointing out that the easy-divorce culture of the day (for men) was licence for what was effectively adultery. The religious leaders had built a system where a man could divorce his wife for any reason and then take up with somebody else instead, but this is just another form of adultery. Instead the bar for divorce must be set high (Jesus highlights marital unfaithfulness) and it is only in these circumstances that divorce is valid.
- These are very challenging verses and highlight an issue that many struggle with. Lust and porn use are endemic and it is likely that numbers of people will be convicted. This is a good moment to encourage people to repent and recommit themselves to honouring Jesus in their thought life.
- Along with the challenge, these issues can often bring shame. It is important to speak into this in a way that holds out the gospel and speaks of Christ’s forgiveness for any who struggle in this way.
- Divorce is not a topic spoken of often in church any more but it is an important one. This is a great opportunity to encourage married people to build strong and lasting marriages and for the rest of us to support and help them in doing so.