The Seventh Commandment: The Perversion of Love
Marriage was downgraded in America when Ronald Reagan instituted “no fault” divorce as Governor of California in 1969. Legislators argued that it would reduce litigation expenses and animosity between spouses, ultimately, saving more marriages. By 1979, just ten years after the bill was adopted and subsequently passed in the rest of the US, divorce had doubled. There have been over one million divorces every year since then. Roughly 50% of all marriages end in divorce or separation.
Beverly Willett The number of matrimonial lawyers exploded…The fallout from no-fault divorce has thus been financially, emotionally and physically devastating to divorced families with increases in poverty, suicide, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. Adultery has been normalized…
Reagan later told his son that signing the bill was his “greatest regret” in public service. As much as I like his politics, I have to agree, “no fault divorce” was a massive mistake. Americans are doing a poor job of preserving the biblical ideal of marriage.
The moral law of God, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, is a perpetually binding standard for humanity. This law did not expire when Christ perfectly fulfilled its righteous requirements. You are not free to murder because Jesus fulfilled the sixth commandment. Neither are you free to commit adultery because Jesus was perfectly faithful to his bride, the Church. Positive and negative consequences of these commandments remain valid in every age.
Last week, we looked at the preservation of love. God commends the covenant of marriage to all humanity. It is a blessing bestowed upon all who are not called to be single. This week, we will consider the perversion of love, pointing to the many ways in which we might transgress this commandment. This includes anything and everything that is contrary to God’s design for marriage.
Last week, I concluded with the idea that sexual purity in a Christian marriage reflects Christ’s sacrificial fidelity to his bride. I emphasized the fact that honoring the covenant of marriage includes forsaking everything that hinders God’s ideal blessing in marriage.
Read Exodus 20:14.
Instances of Perversion
The Westminster Larger Catechism Q.139 lists a catalogue of sins forbidden by the seventh commandment. We won’t have time to consider each example, but suffice it to say the Bible has no shortage of sins related to sexual unfaithfulness. We can categorize the examples into three groups: action, communication, and imagination.
Scripture forbids actions such as “adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts.” We saw the very indulgence of these actions as one of the means by which God judges the wicked (Romans 1:18-32). Under the Old Covenant, the consequences of being caught in adultery was execution by stoning for both parties involved (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). Their impurity was not allowed to remain and infect others in the camp. There were plenty of similar laws from other nations in ancient history. The point being, humanity naturally understands the importance of protecting marriage. At the same time, the greatest perversions in culture are practices promoted by false religions. It appears to be one of Satan’s most effective strategies because it impacts every culture in every age.
The WLC also forbid “all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto.” It’s wrong to speak or listen to sexually perverse speech. We should not remain silent or present while others speak in perverse ways. We should not fill our minds with songs that glorify sexually immoral activity.
We could also add looking at others with lust or watching morally offensive media. I’m not only referring to pornography, although that is obviously included. We should guard ourselves and those in our household against television shows and movies with sexually explicit content. Be careful about the websites you visit. Advertisers know how to get your attention. Unfortunately, that’s provocative imagery of scantly clad women. Like Job, we should make a covenant with our eyes, that we might not sin against God (Job 31:1).
It is quite disturbing that some of the most popular books in the last decade have been trashy romance novels. They have swept up otherwise self-respecting women. When something becomes popular, more people make excuses for its lascivious content.
If your friends are constantly watching and talking about shows that lead you into temptation, it might be time to find a new company of friends. Get out of the house more. Since watching sports has become so political, it might be time to start playingsports again with family and friends. Take up fishing or hunting. Learn to ride a horse. Going outside won’t solve all of your problems, but it might make you less addicted to your screens.
We are an idle generation, and it shows in the vices to which we’re addicted. Idleness oftentimes leads to gluttony and drunkenness. Our laziness isolates us from others and provokes us to act, speak, and think in unclean ways. If we spend our evenings filling our minds with wild imaginations, it will have an impact on our values and goals. If we struggle to show affection to our spouse and children, it’s possible that we have spent our affections on self-indulgent purposes.
All of these examples are forbidden, but some are certainly more heinous in the sight of God than others. To violate this command in our minds is not as severe as violating the command through a physical act. Some physical acts themselves are worse than others. That is not to suggest that we should take any of these instances lightly, but that degrees of sin do exist.
Fesko Several years ago a large conservative denomination held its annual meetings at a convention center. The local newspaper noted that in-room subscription to pornographic movies by conventioneers during that time was no different from that of people at any other convention.
I know a former pastor in the PCA who ordered an escort on the day our General Assembly concluded last year.
We could go on with a seemingly endless list of examples and point to specific individuals who have fallen into various perversions. But this is not about everyone else. We need to deal with our own temptations in this area. We need to pursue repentance unto life recognizing that it is a saving grace that can only be achieved by a sovereign God who loved us even while we were unfaithful.
We need to recognize our sin and develop a true sense of its wickedness. Jesus spoke of taking lust and adultery so seriously that we would tear out our right eye or cut off our right hand if they cause us to sin (Matthew 5:28-32). Of course, He was speaking in hyperbole since doing so would only make us left-eyed and left-handed sinners. But his illustration highlights the gravity of perversion.
Pray that the Spirit would cause our recognition of sin to lead to an appropriate level of grief and hatred for it. Even as we recognize how heinous our sin is, we must not lose sight of the superior beauty of our Savior as we apprehend the mercy of God in Christ. Only then will we turn away from our sin unto God pursuing after new obedience. Only then will we perceive “the way of escape” that God promises to provide so that we might endure the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). Only then will we eagerly pursue accountability, correction, and rebuke.
Unfortunately, rather than pursuing repentance, it is more common to indulge in sin.
Indulgences of Perversion
Our culture has placed its foot on the gas and rushed to the administration of unlawful marriages. In 2004, many credit the re-election of George W. Bush with ballot initiatives to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. In 2015, eleven years later, Barack Obama celebrated the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in every state. This followed a radical flip-flop in public opinion.
Christian marriages fall apart at roughly the same pace and rate as those of unbelievers. We need to guard ourselves against things that tend toward the breakdown of our marriages. We need to stop allowing the sun to go down on our anger. Keep a short account with your spouse. Check-in daily. Regularly pray with and for one another.
If you are single and dating, you should not unnecessarily delay marriage. I realize this is a complicated issue, but too many people think everything needs to be perfectly lined up before the ceremony. The result is unwise choices that may lead to fornication.
The greatest example of indulgence is the pursuit of an unbiblical divorce. Scripture allows two exceptions for divorce (adultery and abandonment). I believe abandonment includes abuse, but that needs to be carefully defined.
Aaron Renn wrote an article that caught my attention. He mentioned that 70% of divorces are initiated by women. According to research done by Valerie Hobbs, a British academic feminist, reformed preaching on divorce tend to portray it as a male problem that women receive.
We need to recognize that blaming all marriage troubles on the husband is part of the reason many men hate going to church. They are routinely chastised as failures, while women can do not wrong. Some refer to the feminization of the church. It caters to women and blames men for every social ill. This explains why men would rather listen to teachers like Jordan Peterson than pastors. Peterson does have a high view of Scripture, but he is not a Christian. His audience is 80% male whereas Christian churches are roughly 60% female.
Peterson challenges his audience to take responsibility for their actions, but he doesn’t blame them with false assumptions or chastise them. Men don’t need to be berated like children, but they may need a stern rebuke.
We need to challenge men to be masculine which involves picking up their cross and following Jesus. They ought to be exhorted to love their wives in a sacrificial way. And women ought to unashamedly be challenged to submit to their husbands. Pastors are all too quick to rebuke husbands but sugarcoat their exhortations to women. We cannot be afraid to declare what Scripture specifically teaches (Ephesians 5).
Marriage is too crucial an institution and full of God’s blessing to minimize its importance. Remind yourself often of the blessings God intends for marriage. Seek pastoral counseling before it’s too late to recover. When I do premarital counseling I do nine sessions. Six sessions before the marriage and three after. I’m trying to set a pattern of seeking help before its too late. No one should feel like marriage counseling is admission of failure. Marriage is a challenge. But, unless God has called you to singlehood, he has created you for the enjoyment of that challenge.
What can we do in order to safeguard our own hearts and the hearts of those we love?
Insurance Against Perversion
Marriage is not magic. Like most young men, I thought marriage would remove lust. That’s not true. And when partners in marriage begin to isolate from each other, further problems arise. Marriage doesn’t hide your depravity. Read Dave Harvey’s book When Sinners Say “I Do”. It’s a necessary reminder that your spouse will never live up to your expectations.
We ought to recognize the high value of marriage, but we also need to be realistic about it. It doesn’t make you holy. In fact, it typically exposes more of your flaws.
This is where Jordan Peterson might end his challenge. You are flawed, but capable. Now be all that you can be! But Christianity points beyond ourselves. Once you recognize your inadequacy, the only true solution is to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ alone can redeem, restore, and renew your life and marriage, even if has already been ravaged by heinous sin.
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” (Romans 5:20b). Adultery is not the unforgivable sin. It should not be taken lightly, but if you truly repent God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If you have placed your faith in Jesus, then he has already bore the full weight of your guilt and shame. He has made propitiation for your sins (Hebrews 2:17-18). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).