Lately, it seems that a rash of adulterous relationships have come up in the news. And, these are not minor affairs. Tiger Woods is reported to have had relations with around 15 women, and that’s the ones we know of. Jesse James (Sandra Bullock’s husband) has also fallen off the monogamy train. As we watch the reports on the news, a combination of feelings rise up within us.
One set of feelings is the “acceptable ones”. Indignation, disapproval, pity, and judgment. We can express these out loud, and others will agree with us about the “shameful behavior” of the adulterer.
The other set of feelings is the “unacceptable ones”. Loving the destruction of another, listening and enjoying salacious gossip, and hoping for worse news for that individual. We don’t share these feelings, and sometimes don’t even acknowledge them, but they’re there.
Adultery is sin. It is the destruction of God’s first institution, marriage. It is a violation of the spouse we have become “one flesh” with. When someone commits this sin, they leave a destructive trail which is passed on to succeeding generations. It’s right to tell the truth regarding this sin. And, we know that Christians, like all other sinners on this earth commit this sin.
However, Adultery is not only sexual “cheating”. The children of Israel were constantly chastised for their infidelity towards God in pursuing other gods. Proverbs 2:16-19 personify this sin as a walking away from Wisdom and pursuing desires instead. Solomon, who wrote the Proverbs, was a product of an adulterous relationship and had many foreign wives (We call this hypocrisy). James, in chapter 4, writing to Jewish Christians states, “4You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” (NIV, Biblegateway).
What in the world is James talking about? It’s easy to see that we don’t commit adultery, isn’t it? What is this idea of friendship with the world?
Some in the evangelical community have placed the blame at the feet of immorality. It’s the drinking, or cursing, or physical adultery that we need to avoid. If we can steer clear of outward immorality, then we stay on the righteous path. And, there is something to that. Cheating on tests, lying, gossiping all contribute to the erosion of one’s character, and declare us “untrustworthy”.
But, it is more insidious. Christians are not justified by their avoidance of what’s called “gross sin” (gross means outward). In fact, in the acceptable feelings category, the idea of judgment plays a role in the writing of the book of Galatians (Paul lashes out at those judging other Christians).
We Christians engage in judgment and more than that; condemnation. It is one thing to judge a sin, it is another to condemn the person without room for forgiveness. We close the book on others when they don’t live up to our moral codes. We reject them. How many new Christians are given grace upon their entry into the church, just to receive a code to “live up to” a few weeks later? And, if they don’t live up to these, other Christians are there to “correct” them. Any long-term pattern of failure then rates rejection from the church. So, the person is better off being a pagan where he/she doesn’t ever have to face a jury trial every Sunday than accept the constant evaluation of a fellow sinner.
The sin of adultery the church has committed is moralism. Moralism ignores the unseen sins of judgment, rejection, condemnation and pride in individual moral attainment, and forgets mercy and forgiveness. It chooses the facade of a tower of moral goodness over the broken weakness of dependence upon Christ’s work. It self-justifies and has no need of self-reflection. In the end, moralism denies Christ. It is anti-Christian.
I know I’ll get some email for this statement, but allow me this thought; Christ didn’t come here to give you a second set of ten commandments. He didn’t come to give us a yolk we couldn’t carry. He didn’t come in judgment. Jesus Christ came in mercy and forgiveness. He came to call moralists “white-washed tombs” which appear beautiful on the outside but are filled with wickedness on the inside. He did this to break the stranglehold of our sinful flesh which loves to condemn, judge and destroy. In fact, Jesus Christ did not come to “reform” you morally. He came to crucify you.
He came to crucify the reduction of Scripture into a “to do list” of morality and replace it with the idea that the whole Bible is about HIM (road to Emmaus). He was crucified for our Law-breaking immorality and for our hidden self-righteous judgment. He was broken for our sin and the sinfulness that births it.
That doesn’t mean we won’t return to the vomit of criticism, judgment, condemnation and self-justification. These are impossible to avoid because on this earth, we remain sinful. The denial of this fact is rooted in pride. But, their end is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Their destruction is at hand. We rejoice in the full forgiveness won for us by Jesus.
He is more than a conqueror over our deep-seeded wickedness. He has come to set us free. And the key is in the shape of a cross. The door has been unlocked, the crucifixion has begun, and we have been united with Christ.
He is our eternal savior, and heavenly bridegroom. He has come to rescue us from our adultery and re-establish us through His mercy and forgiveness. Judgment has ended; reconciliation has begun!