Date:    02/26/03

Text:     Matthew 5:27-30

Title:     Adultery in Heart

Theme: As followers of Jesus Christ, our morality must arise from our heart.      



            A Marine mother was asked why she was against the war. “I sent my son to Marine to get an education, and not to send him to a war where he may be killed”

Don’t you sometimes feel the same about being a Christian? I become a Christian because my parents or spouse think it is a good thing to do. I become a Christian because I think it is good for me;  I need direction and guidance in life; I need God to help me through the rough times in life.

            If you have been here with us since last September, listening to the messages on the Sermon on the Mount, you probably have said, “I didn’t know being a follower of Jesus Christ requires so much commitment and change in life. I thought I can go on with my life as usual, making some changes here and there, but not this drastic!”

            Last Sunday we heard of Jesus teaching that when in anger, we offend someone, is the same as committing murder. This really makes us uncomfortable. Who among us, according to Jesus'' teaching, has not committed murder? Not a very pleasant thought, is it?

            Well, let us move on to today’s passage. Again, in these few verses, Jesus wants to impress upon us a simple truth: True morality must arise from our hearts.

I.          Prohibition of adultery is God's way of protecting the sanctity of marriage.

            The 6th commandment is, “You shall not murder”. The 7th commandment, is “you shall not commit adultery”. This commandment specifically prohibits sexual relationships between a married person with someone outside the marriage. The rationale for “you shall not murder” is sanctity of life. So, what is the rationale here?

            At the beginning of human history, God made it clear that he intended for a man and a woman to be united, and become one. God highly valued this life long commitment and fidelity between the husband and wife. This husband and wife relationship is to form the basic unit in any society.

            Marriage is a sacred institution because it was established by God and for our well being. Therefore, God also sets up boundaries to protect the sanctity of marriage. In Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

            Sex is a very basic ingredient for the husband and wife to acquire a total oneness. When two individuals are involved sexually, something happens to their emotions. They begin to experience some kind of bonding. They have given a part of themselves to each other. (For this reason, separation after two individuals were sexually involved is so much more painful and difficult.) In the context of marriage, this sexual relationship brings the greatest fulfillment as it draws the husband and wife to become one. Such intimacy and oneness is reserved solely for the husband and wife.

            Consequently, where there is a sexual relationship outside the marriage, it will damage and cause great harm to the husband and wife relationship. It breaks the bond they  have. Great effort will be required to repair such damage and hurt. The rationale for forbidding adultery is to protect the sanctity of marriage. God was so determined to protect this marriage covenant, that the punishment in the OT for adultery is the same as murder. The adulterer was to be punished by death.

            In this postmodern world, “you shall not commit adultery” is a rather foreign concept. Do you know that there was a time in this and many other countries, adultery was a criminal offense? In a survey conducted in the 90’s, 49% of the US population have considered having an affair and 31% actually have an affair. In an article in Friday’s Houston Chronicle,  it was suggested that perhaps as many as half of the marriages had experienced an affair. In popular psychology, it is even suggested that an affair, a sexual relationship outside the marriage may be good for the marriage.

            This indicates how far our society has moved away from this original prohibition of adultery.

II.         Prohibition of adultery includes adultery in heart.

            Again, to many of us, so far so good. We said, “Yes, I agree with Jesus. Adultery is really not good for the marriage. It is wrong.” Then again, you have that disturbing 3 letter word, ‘but’. You see, as our society is moving away from this prohibition of adultery, our Lord Jesus is moving in a different direction. He says, vs28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Like murder, Jesus does not stop at the external taking of another life, here he again zeroes in on one’s heart, what is in one’s mind. To him true morality must arise from one’s heart. It goes beyond our external behaviors.  

            What does Jesus mean here?  Jesus is not forbidding the normal attraction between male and female. There are times when we see a guy or girl; we could be attracted and say, “ummm….” You know what I mean, right?

            It is not about the husband and wife relationship. In the Song of Solomon, we read of a lively and uninhibited description of love between the bride and the bridegroom.

            Let us explore what Jesus is saying here. Lust means after looking, one continues to think, consume and devour. It becomes possessive and engages in sexual fantasies. It happens in the mind. This is wrong. This is the same as physical adultery.

            There was a TV show about a killer. What triggered the person to kill? His first look at her, then his lust took over. He followed and eventually raped and killed her. Inner lust reached its fullest expression.

            When we take the 7th commandment, “you shall not commit adultery” together with Jesus'' teaching here, it becomes a prohibition on all kinds of sexual immorality. Yes, physical sexual intercourse outside marriage is wrong. So is any kind of sexual fantasies, physical or imagined, outside marriage is also wrong.

Since our former president’s conduct, our society, and especially the youth are trying to define what sex is, what is right and what is wrong. But when we take Jesus'' teaching seriously, any kind of sexual behavior and imagination outside marriage, is wrong, is sin. Yes, even everyone else is doing it, but to Jesus, it is wrong, it is sin.

III.       Prohibition of adultery leads to drastic change in one’s behavior.

            In the case of murder, Jesus teaches that if you, in anger, hurt someone physically and verbally, it is wrong, go apologize and reconcile with that person. Here, he teaches, vs29-30,  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

            Again, first look at what it is not. Here Jesus is using what we call dramatic speech. Therefore one must not take it literally. A well know Christian scholar in the 3rd century, Origen, in his pursuit for holiness and godliness, took this passage literally and castrated himself.

            Here Jesus is saying that since lust is wrong, and all sins eventually will lead to hell, therefore, we must do whatever we can to stop it, even at the risk of being physically maimed. We must do whatever we can so that we’ll not put ourselves in situations that will cause us to lust after another person. If by looking at a woman or man, can lead us to sexual fantasies, then don’t look. If by going near somewhere, or doing something, can lead us to sexual fantasies, then don’t go there, don’t do it. This requires strong determination and drastic behavior change.

            Now, what does it mean to us today? I’ll try to be as practical as I can from here. At the same time, I don’t want to be legalistic, setting down a set of rules that we should all follow.

            First, we have to recognize that our society is saturated with sexual images. Sex and capitalism tend to go hand in hand. Wall Street says, Sex sells. We use sex to sell anything from clothes, to tools, to cars. Look at some of the Abercrombie’s ads. Even our secular society considers them as borderline pornography, taking advantage of the youth. Then there are the advertisements for cars. Sometimes we wonder what has a female model to do with a car?  Of course there are the movies and TV shows. They entice, massage and seduce our sexual desires. Such desire can possess and consume us.

            Secondly, having said this, we also need to be aware that the arousal of sexual desires is different with different people. John Stott writes that some can see explicitly sexual pictures on paper or film and remain entirely unscathed, while others would find them terribly corrupting. Our temperaments and temptations are all different. Our thresholds for temptation are also different.

            Thirdly, each person will have to know what his /her limit is. Each person will need to decide when to stop looking, where to stop going and what to stop doing. If we continue to let our eyes wander and dwell on a certain individual, starting to fantasize, then we are inviting trouble. Martin Luther said, “one cannot stop the bird from flying over his head. But he can stop the bird from building a nest there.” Isn’t it true that in real life, the first look, you find that person quite attractive. Second or third look will start to take your mind down a dangerous path. You cannot help with the first look. For the person just shows up from nowhere (?), but you certainly don’t have to take the second look. I remember a friend in graduate school explained to me about his weekend car accident. “I was at the red light. I saw a beautiful girl. I then took a second long look. And at the same time I thought the light had turned green so I stepped on the accelerator….” It’s the second and third look that got us into trouble.

            Fourthly, the internet. Last week in a parenting seminar, the speaker talked about 200 new porno sites added each day. If you have spent time on the internet, you know how rampant it is. There are those blatant sexual images and languages on the sites. Then are times they attack your computer as spam mail. Do we visit those sites in the privacy of our home?  Are we doing anything, such as setting the security level in our browser or install a filter so we will not easily fall into this?

            Lastly, I feel that I need to say a few words about how we dress. This may apply more to the girls among us. I will be the last one to come up with a list of clothes that you should or should not wear. Or how low or high they should be. There is nothing wrong in wearing clothes that will make you attractive. But how about wearing rather revealing clothes making you seductive? They are different, right? I think you know the difference between attractive and seductive. If you have problem distinguishing that, I am sure your mom or dad will be glad to advice you. As fellow followers of Jesus Christ, there are times we may need to speak the truth in love, gently pointing to this person about how he/she dresses. Let us not let our clothing be a stumbling block to others, causing them to commit adultery in their hearts.


            In this passage, Jesus reminds his followers about the folly of adultery. He does one step further by teaching that when we lust after another person, we are in fact committing adultery in our hearts. True morality and true purity must arise from one’s heart.

            In our society, we take sexual sins very lightly. We have learned to call them an illness, or sexual addition. If it is an illness, it can be treated, and remorse and repentance may not be necessary. If it is an illness, it will also minimize my responsibility. I can blame it on my gene or my family. In a recent issue of Time magazine, it brought up an interesting fact that according to some psychiatrists, sexual addiction is not a documentable illness. Rather it is a Clinton –era pop psychology.  We use this to minimize its shame and immorality.

            As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to take sins, sexual sins and all kinds of sins seriously. How we wish that Jesus would just answer our prayers, give us what we need and want, and leave us alone. Yet, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to constantly remember that he had called us to follow him. Therefore our inner thoughts and external behavior are to reflect the one we follow. We each have to ask, do we follow the crowd, or do we follow Jesus Christ?