One Lays Bare Sex Can't be Casual
Sexual sins are the most sensational ones in the courthouse. Elton John's line that "Marylyn was found in the nude" being all it took to further trash her reputation is well to the point. When it comes to the courthouse, there's nothing casual about crimes and misdemeanors involving sex. Everybody's deadly serious about these. However, if you say that living together, sex before marriage, homosexuality, bisexuality, and changing gender are serious issues then you're a prude, Puritan, or repressed. But the 6th Commandment lays bare that sex can't be casual.
Who's casual about chastity? Maybe you don't watch the same news I do, but ever since there were Vestal Virgins in ancient Rome people who voluntarily forego sex are big news. Didn't you hear that about Tim Tebow? Even the calloused, jaded reporters covering him sounded grave when they talked about his pledge to wait till marriage. Or didn't you hear the Oscar hoopla over Dolores Hart? She was the 1960s starlet who had a famous kissing scene with Elvis but then left her promising acting career to become a nun. O the respect, awe, reverence that surrounded this now 73 year old nun who forswore Hollywood sex for 50 years.
Maybe you're not following my point. The 6th Commandment says that sex can't be casual because it commands chastity and not even our sex-soaked society is casual about chastity. Ah, you might not know the 6th Commandment is about chastity. Fault the 1991 Catechism. My age grew up memorizing, "We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life." The '91 Catechism changed it to read, "We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life." You hear "sexually pure" and you think sex-free, but it's not the word pure there but chaste. And there is true, godly chastity in marriage. And let me be real clear; it's in the marriage bed itself.
This wasn't Luther's discovery; it was his rediscovery. God's holy estate of matrimony had been buried under centuries of distain. Those in marriage having marital relations were next to the animals. It was the priests, monks, and nuns that took vows of celibacy who were holy. Over a 1000 years before Luther Chrysostom said this: "Oh what things unheard of! In the world they are virgins before the marriage, but after the marriage no longer. But here [in the Church] it is not so: but even though they be not virgins before this marriage, after the marriage they become virgins" (NPNF, xii, 383).
Luther picks up Chrysostom's theme in the Large Catechism. Marriage is the only true vow of chastity. Apart from extraordinary grace of God it isn't possible to be free from burning with sexual desire without the aid of marriage. Within marriage, sex is blessed and pleases God (I, 215-217). All the monks chanting vespers and all the nuns kneeling before altars are not as chaste as husband and wife in bed. The awe, the seriousness that people feel toward vows of celibacy and the celibate rightly belongs to husband and wife.
The 6th Commandment says sex can't be casual because who's casual
about discipline? People take military discipline seriously. We speak
of a person's academic discipline with straight faces. Even in the
realm of sport we speak in hallowed tones of a player's game day discipline.
Well, sex is about discipline, but you probably didn't get that from our
Catechism either. It translates "so that we lead a sexually pure and descent
life." Well that's what the '43 Catechism said too. But the original German
is "chaste and disciplined" (Teaching Luther's Catechism, 99).
You find that same word rightly translated in our sermon hymn verse 7. Be
faithful to thy marriage vows,/ Thy heart give only to thy spouse; /Thy life
keep pure, and lest thou sin,/
Use temperance and discipline."
You are not casual about anything that takes discipline, are you? From arts and crafts, to hunting, to fishing, to gardening, to video games, if something requires discipline you can't be casual and pursue it properly. The 6th Commandment requires discipline in the realm of sexuality so sex can't be casual. One of the silliest things a member ever told me was on the occasion of discovering her 16 year old pregnant. She said and I quote, "We expect too much from kids thinking that they can wait till after marriage."
I would agree if you require your child to finish college before marriage; then you are putting a burden on them that Scripture doesn't. The silly part was thinking that there is only discipline in matters of sex before marriage. Are you kidding? Matters of sex in a fallen world are matters of discipline before, during, and after marriage.
Isn't this all rather a moot point? This is the trump card of the homosexual community, the pornographic community, the so-called sex industry. Sex is too powerful; resistance is futile; you will be assimilated into their sin and join their baseness. First of all, we already have and we know it. We're like the monk who lamented that while he couldn't keep in his mind a single scriptural truth he had read a 100 times he couldn't forget the form he had seen but once. I told you years ago about the legend that the cup the Lord used in the Last Supper was taken to heaven because the guardian of it gave way to lust when a woman's robe loosened as she knelt before it.
For us a chaste and disciplined life no matter how seriously we take sex is not possible; it was, however, for Jesus. This is hard for us to get our head around. We can "understand" how He could live as a sinless Child. We can picture Jesus living with sinners without sinning using incredible patience. We can imagine Him being obedient to authorities, but this Commandment? We're like St. Anthony; we know we carry the dancing girls (or guys) in our own hearts, and we can't imagine Jesus didn't. In fact, we can't imagine life without them in our heart. Jesus had such a life as did perfect Adam and Eve in the Garden. However, Hebrews tells us nevertheless that He was tempted in this regard in all ways just as we are, yet without sin.
We don't want to be too graphic here. Suffice it to say Jesus was as tempted as any teen has ever been, as any married man or woman, as any homosexual has ever been. You are lying to yourself when you tell yourself no one knows the temptation, the burning, the yearning, the compelling lust you know; Jesus did and He didn't give in.
I tell you this not to use Jesus as an example, but so you might take the next step. While you should not be too graphic about the sexual temptations Jesus withstood in leading the chaste and disciplined life you don't, you should be very graphic about how Jesus suffered as you deserve for your sexual sins. Why? Because Scripture is not graphic at all about how our Lord endured temptations to break the 6th Commandment, but it is very graphic about what He suffered for sinners.
As sexual sinners, as people who fail to be chaste and disciplined in what they say and do, we deserve to be rejected by the Church as Jesus was. We deserve to be condemned as worthy of death, spat upon, blindfolded, struck with fists, and beaten by the ushers. I can still make most of you blush just by referring to sexual sins you have hidden from everybody. Imagine standing before your friends and having them described in detail. Though Jesus was guilty of not one; this is what He endured. His own friends wouldn't acknowledge Him. We know His own Father wouldn't either. That's how totally, completely, fully Jesus took on your sins against the 6th Commandment.
Ready to turn the corner? And turn it you must or you could end up like Judas. Judas sins were being beaten, whipped, spat upon. Judas sins were being paid for by blows that landed on Jesus' holy face. With Jesus' stripes even Judas' sins were being healed. But Judas despaired of that fact. Judas denied that fact. Though Jesus did everything He could to show Judas his sin, Judas persisted in it, until all at once the Devil let him see it all, and the horror was too much to bear. Don't let that happen to you! See your sexual sins for the monsters they are now; see that Jesus took responsibility for that monster and killed it by His holy life and innocent suffering and death.
Now look at your sexuality. It's a gift. God doesn't give white elephant gifts, ones that are more pain then pleasure. Nor does God give gifts that are so fragile, so expensive that your hands tremble lest you break one irreparably. Paul could say that some saints in Corinth were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, and homosexual offenders. They hadn't been so far gone, so broken as to be out of the reach of God's redeeming grace in Christ. They were once trapped in their sins, but not anymore.
The 6th Commandment makes sex a part of life but not all of life. Jesus was never married. Paul seems to have gone without it too. They're not presented in Scripture as less than fully human, as cheated, as handicapped in some way. It is not Holy Scriptures that makes sex the focal point of life. It's Darwin and Freud.
For Darwin and particularly later Darwinism the biological imperative is an unstoppable force that makes every living thing do everything to reproduce. For Freud all of life is to be understood as repressing or expressing sexuality. And here's the paradox: while they talk in absolute seriousness about sex, they insist it be engaged in with the casualness of animals with no more seriousness than a biological function. They send us incredibly mixed messages. Sexuality is a primal, primary drive that if you repress it with discipline you will die. On the other hand, it is no more chaste than animals "doing it" or you using the bathroom.
Your only hope is in an enlarged heart that doesn't go by their messages. That's what the Psalmist says, "I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou has enlarged by heart." The forgiveness of sins that Jesus won on Good Friday and distributes today in Word and Sacraments enlarges your heart. It washes away sins; it sends away guilts; it places Jesus in your heart. This is not a casual remake; this is a total recreation. We new creations can no more be casual about sex then we can about any other good and perfect gift of God. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Lent Midweek III (20120307); 6th Commandment, Passion Reading 3