I've been thinking an awful lot about the sermon on the mount these days. It all started a week ago when I read a book called The Wager, by Bill Myers. A wonderful book, I might add; I highly recommend it. The book is about a movie star who's also a Christian, and he has a dream that God and Satan have made a wager (of sorts): that he can/can't live by the sermon on the mount. The premise is, as is normal for Bill Myers, fascinating. Just like his book Eli, about a parallel universe when Jesus (Eli) comes in our time; Eli gives "the sermon at Denny's," if you will. They're both books that really got me thinking ... how often do all of US try to live by that sermon? Or any sermon? Do we just go to church on sunday and then say "wow, he had a great sermon this week" and move on to our week, totally untouched by anything the speaker said?
I wonder if it was like that in Jesus' day too.
The one part of it that's been bugging me this week has been Matthew 5:27-30. In this particular passage, Jesus talks about adultery. Yes, that's right, adultery. "Why," you ask, "would a great, wonderful, devoted husband such as yourself be worrying about adultery? Have you been playing in the wrong sandbox?"
Now, to anyone that knows me, it's entirely obvious that I'm very loyal to my wife; to be overly practical, why would you bother to marry someone if you're just going to cheat on them later? The reason I worry is verse 28: "But I tell you that anyone that looks at a woman (or man) lustfully has already committed adultery in his (her) heart."
That's a little frightening for anyone who's trying to do life right.
Have you noticed that in today's generation, for even the most moral people, it would seem that it's "ok to look, just don't touch". I hear that a lot, from friends at school to prominant speakers on relationships and sexuality such as John Gray. But honestly, what is Jesus saying here? Is he saying never look at a member of the opposite sex (except your spouse) lest you sin and have to gouge out your eye? No, Jesus is way nicer than that. I think, honestly, he's saying that yes, it's ok to admire beauty, but when you stop admiring beauty and start wondering what that beauty could DO for you, you get yourself into spiritual trouble. It's about not being selfish in your thoughts. It's about serving your spouse (by placing her or him first and foremost in your private visual world) and about serving God (by obeying).
In a way, it's also about serving those whom you might be tempted to look at in the wrong way; by dwelling on lustful thoughts, you start creating a fantasy for yourself in your mind, which that person could never live up to (which of course explains why this applies to everyone, single and married alike). Can you look at a woman and be fine? Sure. Guys do it all the time. Can you look at a woman and sin? Again, sure, and in fact, it's easier to do (they're such nice looking people, aren't they?). The key is in attitude: are you looking for you or are you looking for God? To appreciate beauty is to look for God; to say "wow, that's really great, good job God!" To look for yourself is to lust, something like "hey, how can I get my hands (or whatever) on that?"
So I guess ... you could try and be safe and isolate yourself in a box somewhere or blind yourself and never look at another person again (because yes, you could conceivably look upon a member of the same sex with lust too, if you're into that sort of thing). It's that you gotta let Jesus change your heart sot hat you look at things with HIS eyes.
I heard today that even little kids are getting into this stuff ... my mom called and told me about these new orgy groups that are getting together - in Jr. High schools. That's right, kids from as young as 5th grade are having orgies to have "sexual satisfaction" without actually having sex. How crazy is that?! Have we perverted our world so much that little kids feel like they have to follow in the sins of their fathers/mothers/etc?
Go out into the world and change it for God: serve others like crazy, show people how following God makes life better, and they will follow. God didn't put us on this earth to wait around for heaven: he made this world so we could bring a little slice of heaven here! Yes, heaven is coming; but wouldn't you rather show more people what it'll be like instead of just waiting for it?