You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart.
[With these words Jesus continues to teach about the Law of Moses as the Sermon on the Mount continues. He takes some of the most important topics and explains to his disciples, in specific terms, what it means to be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].
Ah, here it is – the Jimmy Carter scripture. Those of you who are old enough remember when our former president had people gasping and reaching for their Bibles when he referred to this scripture in a 1976 interview with Playboy magazine. People were astonished that Jesus would say such a ridiculous thing!! Sexual fantasy about strangers is normal and healthy, right? Just part of being human! Some people accused Carter of being a nut (no pun intended…not a reference to the fact that he was a peanut farmer). Others thought he was being a prude or a religious fanatic. It became a running joke in the sexually promiscuous 1970s before AIDS cooled things down a bit. I think Carter was a little perplexed. As a Christian, I think he probably just thought he was stating an obvious truth – the words of Jesus.
Just as anger can lead to murder (see Day 24), adultery starts with lust. What starts in the mind as a fantasy can open the door to the ugly realities of adultery and sexual abuse. Just as there is no rule in the Law of Moses against anger, there is no law against fantasizing or pornography. But Jesus tells his disciples that the best way to make sure you don’t commit adultery is to keep your mind under control.
Adultery was a serious sin in Jewish society at the time of Jesus, punishable by death to both parties (Leviticus 20:10). Although we don’t kill people for committing adultery in the United States, it certainly leads to a lot of pain, divorce, and chaos in our society. Even worse is all of the rape and sexual abuse that victimizes people of both sexes and all ages, even within families and churches. It’s an ugly reality throughout all of America.
Pornography is a huge business and a serious addiction for many people. When you look at pornography you are doing exactly what Jesus tells us we must not do. Even so-called “soft porn” like Playboy. Pornography affects your physiology and creates a sort of delusional psychosis. Just ask Ariel Castro, the man was arrested in 2013 for chaining up and raping three women in his house in Cleveland for 10 years, but stated that “most of the sex was consensual.” In his mind maybe, but not in reality. During the trial he admitted that he was addicted to pornography. People think pornography is harmless but it is not. Anyone who needs convincing of this fact should read “An Affair of the Mind” by Laurie Hall. Great book.
Our Jesus is so wise! As with the case of anger, society now recognizes that both sexual obsession and sexual addiction aren’t normal. It’s anti-social behavior. It’s a sign of mental illness when the mind runs rampant with inappropriate sexual fantasies. It’s not normal and when people lust after their friends or co-workers or strangers or family members. It’s a form of compulsion. It will hurt you and those around you, just like any other addiction. It’s a mental glitch that needs to be taken care of. It’s not about “sin” or going to hell or being acceptable to God. It’s about having peace and love and harmony in our souls and in the greater community in which we live.
What does this scripture say to you?