Sunday Shorts are a brief rewind of Kaleo's weekly gatherings intended to equip the kommunity to live into what we're exploring together throughout the week.
X: TEN WORDS FOR THE CONTRAST COMMUNITY [PART SEVEN]
You are not to commit adultery.
It’s clear that our flesh entices us into practicing some of its most heinous acts: participating in corrupt sexual relationships, impurity, unbridled lust, idolatry… selfishness… and other shameful vices that plague humankind. I told you this clearly before, and I only tell you again so there is no room for confusion: those who give in to these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this. Those of us who belong to the Anointed One have crucified our old lives and put to death the flesh and all the lusts and desires that plague us. Now since we have chosen to walk with the Spirit, let’s keep each step in perfect sync with God’s Spirit. This will happen when we set aside our self-interests and work together to create true community…
As you know, long ago God forbade His people to commit adultery. You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow, but I tell you this: any man who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.
Let the first stone be thrown by the one among you who has not sinned… Dear woman, where is everyone? Are we alone? Did no one step forward to condemn you? Lord, no one has condemned me. Well, I do not condemn you either; all I ask is that you go and from now on avoid the sins that plague you.
FIDELITY, INFIDELITY AND THE FLOURISHING OR DESTRUCTION OF US ALL
Our central text, Exodus 20:14, is quite direct. No adultery. Why is that? While a conversation on adultery with one of our ancient brothers and sisters, those who first received this liberating word, would reveal the different ways that we think about the topic based upon our cultural context, one thing that I hope we could agree on is this: adultery, infidelity destroys both individuals and communities. The layout of the Exodus 20 text reveals as much as this prohibition is listed among the following: no murder, no lying about one another, no stealing, and no coveting one another's life. And if we're honest I think we'd say that our experiences, and the experiences of those we're planted among, are in alignment with the gut wrenching reality that infidelity defaces and in some way destroys all who are found in its wake.
Our texts for today speak directly to the dehumanizing and destructive effects of adultery and infidelity in a variety of ways. For instance, the Galatians text speaks to the various "heinous acts... that plague humanity", including "corrupt sexual relationships, impurity, unbridled lust, idolatry… selfishness", all of which are present in adultery. Jesus also addresses this in Matthew 5 and John 8.
In addition to our texts, listen to these words which speak to how the prohibition against adultery, or from the opposite vantage point, the necessary way of fidelity, directly impact the well being of us all - individuals and communities.
"The forsaking of all others is a keeping of faith, not just with the chosen one, but with the ones forsaken. The marriage vow unites not just a woman and a man with each other; it unites each of them with the community in a vow of sexual responsibility toward all others."
“You shall not commit adultery” is the word that calls us to truly care about the people we say we love. Not to use them. Not to exploit them. Not to ignore them. Not to patronize them. Not to manipulate them for the sake of our own satisfaction.’”
"It seems to me that the aim of the Seventh Word is to protect the marriage of one’s neighbor. It affirms the sacred character of marriage and the centrality of sex to the relationship. While those listening to these words may have thought first of their own marriages, I wonder if the exhortation is actually to take responsibility for the well-being of your neighbor, which would go along with the words we’ve talked about so far—‘ Don’t envy your neighbor,’ ‘Don’t lie about or to your neighbor,’ ‘Don’t steal from your neighbor.’ And now, ‘Don’t have sex with your neighbor’s spouse.’ It’s important to remember the big picture for these Ten Words: the formation of a people from a bunch of former slaves. The formation of a people who will work together for the common good, not just their own self-centered needs. Those of us who are married may hear this Word and think it’s about the protection of my marriage, about my need not to stray and destroy my marriage. But what will ultimately protect my marriage is my neighbor keeping this commandment by refusing to commit adultery with my spouse, and by me doing the same. By the creation of a society— a community— where people protect their neighbors. Not least by refusing to have sex with their neighbor’s spouse.”
From Ten: Words Of Life For An Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided And Worn Out Culture by Sean Gladding
In short, the biblical text, Jesus, history and experience all communicate and reveal what Kate Harris says in these words: "Individual autonomy stands starved at the gates of fidelity." [This is true, even amid the claims that humans are not made for monogamy and faithfulness, that open marriage is a viable option, that people should do what makes them happy in the moment, that "following your heart" and taking another lover hurts no one, etc.]
As we seek to put into practice what we've heard here are a couple of questions and an invitation.
First, the questions. As has already been stated, fidelity is a liberating way for both the individual and the community. So the first question is broad, for all of us, the community, and comes from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
Q1: Am I faithful, or am I used to breaking my promises?
In an age when truth telling and the keeping of vows has become negotiable, this is a foundational question to ask, and one that can help us all evaluate our movement towards or away from fidelity in all things.
The second question is more specific, for those who have given themselves to another in marriage.
Q2: How can I “love and cherish you” in this time and place?
You may recognize the quoted line as being a classic part of our modern wedding vows. And the intent here is to foster an active and life-giving fidelity between those who are married [Experiment with this. Ask one another to consider the question and then go for a walk, for coffee, on a date and listen to one another's responses. Consider asking it and listening regularly. Maybe monthly.]
Finally, the invitation. In the text above from John 8 we see the end of a scene that begins horrifically. Jesus' opponents have shamed and dehumanized a woman. They quote the law concerning adultery, but have no interest in the law's intent. Instead they are smug and only concerned with being right in their own eyes and in putting Jesus in his place - which to them meant under their authority. But in the midst of all of this Jesus turns the tables. Where adultery destroys, and a lack of fidelity towards other humans kills, Jesus undoes shame and condemnation. In their place he says this: "I do not condemn you... all I ask is that you go and from now on avoid the sins that plague you." And the sins that plagued her, and us are those associated with infidelity. So may we accept Jesus' invitation and as some of our other translations say, "go and sin no more."