The Seventh Commandment , Sanctification, and Union with God

Just this last week General Petraeus was found out. Evidently he never paid much attention to the seventh commandment, or the dramatic and sobering words from Proverbs seven, “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of dead” (vv. 26-27). It is a testimony to the power of this commandment, founded in the created order itself, that even in this culture where wrong is called right and right is called wrong, that we expect our leaders to be clean with regards to adultery. Though adultery happens everywhere, it is rarely something that the persons involved want to be found out. Yet, like all sin, it wants to be found out; it is restless until it emerges in full view, screaming from the rooftops.

Adultery is a boundary motif. When God created the cosmos, He did not rid creation from the three great primal elements of chaos: darkness, watery deep and formless earth. Rather, He gave these elements boundaries. When these elements break boundaries, such as the day turning to night as in the Egyptian plague, or the ocean bursting over its shores, or the desert devouring fertile land, we have chaos. Chaos is that which is intolerable to human life. With these physical boundaries, God set moral boundaries. If they are broken, chaos ensues, and life becomes intolerable. These moral boundaries are called law. Law is a paradise motif, for without it there is chaos, but with it there is beauty, grace, peace, and joy.

Infidelity to one’s spouse, like murder in last week’s post, is in every heart whether we can see it or not. To whom has God given this command? Is it not to us all? Does not Jesus do with this commandment what He did with the Murder commandment in the Sermon on the Mount? He internalizes it to interior motions of the heart. But this is what makes this commandment so glorious. To live by it, to learn faithfulness to one’s spouse; indeed, by working through all the hard relational issues that present themselves when a man and a woman covenant together, is sanctification itself. We either grow closer to one another, and thereby closer to God, or we grow further apart, more vulnerable to adultery, and thereby further from God. To have lived a whole married life faithfully, to grow old together and ever deeper in love, is surely the most important thing we can give to our children, and the most successful accomplishment a man or a woman can attain in this life. It is a slow process; indeed, it takes decades.

Adultery is linked in the Bible to idolatry. To fix our desires unlawfully on another person, we are making an idol of that person. We are shoving that person in God’s face, and telling Him that this person is “God.” This is not according to truth, and carries with it its own destruction. Ironically, when spouses are faithful to one another, they find God in one another. God is generous in marriage; a man whose life is rightly oriented towards God adores and worships his wife ─ yet in some mysterious way He worships God through his wife. Everything becomes one. This is expressed in the book of Proverbs where the “woman of power” (Chapter 31) becomes the very incarnation of the wisdom described in chapters 1-9. So union in marriage becomes a staging place for our union with Christ. True, our spouses are not God, but marriage becomes the place where we grow into union with God. This is why the Church regards marriage as a sacrament.

How happy I am with God’s laws, and especially this one! Let us rejoice in the glory of God’s design! Law is not restrictive! It opens up to us God’s bounties! Ah, how generous our God is!

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