27 “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery [Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18]. 28 But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell.
31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate’ [Deuteronomy 24:1]. 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Next in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus took up the difficult topics of adultery and divorce. He clearly took adultery and marriage seriously—“recreational sex” was totally outside his frame of reference. But again he clearly saw adultery and divorce as about far more than just physical actions. Like Israel’s prophets, who had spoken on his behalf, he taught that faithless hearts (in much deeper ways than just faithless bodies) cause deep pain and brokenness.
Lord Jesus, the apostle Paul would later call spouses to love each other the way you loved your church. Shape me into someone who can grow toward living out that scary selfless standard. Amen.
* Zondervan, NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 219197-219198). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
It makes sense that the God who created our hearts and minds would know that our basic human need to be loved comes with a deep need to be honored and respected by the people in our life – life partners, family, friends, and even our broader community. We need to feel that we are important – that our voices are heard, our feelings are considered, our very existence is treasured – so treasured that we follow Jesus’ instruction to love one another as much, and in the same way, as we love ourselves.
This is how God intended us to function. This is what the Kingdom of heaven looks like.
In today’s reading, Jesus speaks seriously about the importance of loving and honoring one another, and about the ripple effect of dishonoring or disregarding others. Marriage makes a good example, and he is not speaking of just sexual unfaithfulness, but of any act that makes one partner feel disregarded, unimportant, or less-than.
If any kind of attraction, relationship, or activity leads us to hurt the heart and soul of another human being, then that attraction, relationship or activity is so wrong that Jesus uses extreme word pictures of chopping off body parts to get the point across.
We have all heard and read messages about the ripple effect of kindness, faithfulness, and love. Jesus reminds us in todays’ scripture that disregarding faithfulness, love, and someone else’s feelings makes a different kind of ripple – one that can destroy lives far beyond the person who chooses their own desires over the feelings and trust of another.
Today’s GPS reading can be a call to examine all of our relationships - personal and even with our community at large - and make sure that nothing has become more important to us than the human hearts and souls that God has made part of our lives. If we find something (and we probably all can), then it may be time to do some chopping!
Lord God, help us to look hard and see
any part of our thoughts or actions that disregard and hurt
the very people you have called us to love.
Make us brave enough, with your help, to remove those things from
our lives and love each other more perfectly,
in Your Name.
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