A Fence Everyone Wants Moved
You practically never find a fence everyone wants moved. People on one side or the other want it or it wouldn't be there. Not so the fence of the 6th Commandment. If you leave it where God put it, it exposes, according to the Large Catechism, "the shamefulness and cesspool of all kinds of vices and lewdness among us" (I, 202).
At first glance, though it doesn't. What did you just say it means: "that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other." Easy, right? Natural man can, to some extent, control what he says and does. Love stories are found between unbelievers, so outwardly anyone can follow this fence line. Not so fast. Judah who took up with a harlot' after his wife passed (Gen. 38); Samson who took up with a succession of women (Jud. 14-16); David who had multiple wives and concubines but still took another man's wife (2 Sam. 11), would argue that even outwardly keeping this Commandment is not easy.
And it's not enough. The Small Catechism is our basic confession meant for new converts. The Large Catechism says in more detail: "Not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means" (I, 202). Jesus says this in the Sermon on the Mount: "whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Mt. 5:28). "With these words, the chaste Son of God lays His holy hand on the sore spot in every human heart, and when His pure eyes pierce ours, we must every one of us, hang our heads in shame" (Dallman,in Reiss, That I May Know Him, 23). And unlike legitimate needs that can be satisfied, lusts can't be. That's the horror of Bunyan's giant and Lewis' wicked witch. Both give their victims food that causes greater hunger (Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 107). Luther got this. He said that your heart is a veritable brothel. Day and night it thinks about fornicating. It never lacks the willingness only the opportunity. It "'attacks you like a mad dog'" (Peters, Ten Commandments, 252). So, Springsteen was right: "It's like someone took a knife, edgy and dull and cut a 6-inch valley through the middle of my skullOh-oh-oh, I'm on fire."
Everyone's fallen heart has always wanted this fence moved to allow maybe not deeds but lusts. Then the 60s came and promoted free-love; the 90's sex apart from marriage and between same sexes. Then the 2000's accepted living together as the new normal, and finally the government, acting the antichrist, simply moved the fence. Marry the one you're with, or not, whether you're man and woman or men and women. You can choose you're gender regardless of your God-given sex, and if a man wants to be a woman or a woman wants to be a man, their civil rights are violated if anyone disagrees. I looking at a man must say "she". How is this different from Orwell's 1984's depiction of brainwashing as teaching people to say 2+2=5? Even pagans at one time got that abominations came from crossing the 6th Commandment fence. The monstrous Minotaur came about because King Minos struck by a bull's beauty wouldn't sacrifice it to Poseidon. The god in-turn makes his wife to have an unholy passion for the bull. The result is the monstrosity of a half-man and half-bull (Blumeberg, Whose What?, 10).
Everyone wants to move this fence, and if government does it, it must be okay. Gambling, abortion, and in some areas prostitution all travelled the route of government legalization to general acceptance. True story: A pick-up truck blocks both lanes of a Texas gravel road. Two kids on 3-wheelers are racing toward it. The rancher stands in front of the truck waving them to stop. These kids think they can choose to ignore this fence by going into the bar ditch. They didn't see the rancher had a cable attached from his truck to the fence trying to pull it up. They went around the fence' and were both decapitated. In 1524 Luther thought the death penalty was not appropriate for adultery, but in 1546 he urged decapitation as the proper punishment (LW 9, 211). Death is not just appropriate for adultery or LGBTQ-ism, but for fornication, premarital sex, pornography, and lusting in general. We've normalized this in that we've been taught by Freud to speak of having a libido. Libido is Latin not for God-given sexual desire but for lust; the monster that is never satisfied. And disregarding this fence doesn't just bring death in this life but eternally: C.S. Lewis says, "Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body" (Miracles, 266).
Government has moved the fence line, society has acquiesced, and this combination has led most mainline churches to go along. But it's not okay with God, and He sent His only beloved Son to address the issue. First, in our flesh and blood, God the Son, did live a sexually pure and decent life in what He said, did, and thought. This is impossible for us to understand and difficult to believe. Referencing Sodom and Gomorrah as the depths of the fallen world, Chesterton said of base sexual lusts: "such things are hideous not because they are distant but because they are near to us; in all our brains, certainly in mine, are buried things as bad as any buried under the bitter sea [that washes over Sodom and Gomorrah],.." (Collected Works, Vol. XX,335). Hebrews promises us that Jesus was tempted in all ways we are yet without sin (4:15). We can never understand this, but we are to believe it. For as Chesterton goes on to say if Jesus didn't come to do battle with the darkest things in the brain of man what was the point of His coming (Ibid.)?
The Last Temptation Of Christ, a novel of the 50s than a movie of the late 80s, tries to explain it, to show it and it has Jesus lusting just like us. He did not, but He was tempted just like us, and He never gave in or up. So though He stands before the high priest bound as if a violent sexual offender, He's pure as the driven snow. Then, still bound, see how the Holy Spirit notes this? He stands before the whole Sanhedrin. He's guilty of none of which they accuse Him. You know who is? Peter who is outside denying not only he is a follower of the holy, pure Jesus, but denying he even knows Him. This is what you and I do with every lust, every sexual sin in thought, word, or deed. Even though again and again the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacraments says, "You don't want to do that; you don't want to think this; you don't want to look at that," we do. As Peter was warned so are we. And yet we fall. But we really don't hit bottom till we see Jesus, and then the bitterness certainly comes and maybe even the tears. How could we? How did we?
All the 12-step programs give a chip when a person reaches 30 days and other milestones. These are prized by their possessors as marks of achievement. Some evangelicals carry chips with a cross on it. Writing on the chip says they carry it as a reminder of what Jesus did on the cross. The Evangelical chips are better than the 12-step ones, because they remind you of what Jesus did for you, not what you have done. No matter how notable my works, no strength comes from what I do, will do, can do; strength comes from what Jesus did and gives. In our Passion Reading you see portrayed in black and white what Jesus did to save you from judgment now and in eternity for your sexual sins no matter how abnormal, normal, filthy, or beautiful others or you may consider them. The 6th Commandment fence hasn't moved. It didn't move for Judah who used a harlot, Samson who fornicated, or David who adulterated. And it won't move for you, so see tonight what Jesus did to forgive your sexual sins, so you can walk out of here free, forgiven, cleansed. See what He did in black and white, but you should've seen it in color.
I'm not recommending you go home and watch The Passion of the Christ. In fact, I recommend not watching that movie. I say why in a March 13, 2008 blogpost. Tonight, I say: see the suffering, sighing, crying, of Jesus in our text in the high-def color it was. Remember the two times it notes Jesus was still bound? That's when the text says "some began to spit at Him; they blindfolded Him, struck Him with their fists, and said, Prophesy! Who hit you!' And the guards took Him and beat Him". With but a thought Jesus could break His bonds, but He doesn't because you and I deserve to be beat, slapped, punched, and spit upon for just one of our sexual sins. Luther says, "Godconsiders sins against this commandment, above all others, to be the most disgraceful and scandalous" Luther says he comes to this this conclusion because it's our sexual sins that God most often reveals to others (A Simple Way to Pray).
I don't know if this is true, but I do know that people's sexual sins are usually the most scandalous to them, the most unforgiveable to them. And so, like last week, you can leave here as Judas or this time as Peter. Peter we know was ashamed of his sin, it haunts him even on Easter Sunday and weeks later in Galilee: How could he really actually love Jesus if he sinned against Him so, and that question echoes in your heart when you cross the 6th commandment fence again. You despair of being forgiven; you conclude you can't be. The path to this conclusion begins with the satanic temptation to believe you don't feel bad enough, long enough to be forgiven. This line of thought is walking away from Jesus. It's saying the holy life He lived and all the beating and bludgeoning He suffered tonight to forgive you is smaller than your ugly, ugly guilt. That's what Judas concluded not Peter.
Take this chip from me. Yes, the church has had a chip sense circa 200 A.D.. It's the sign of the cross made over you at your Baptism as a token, a sign that you have been redeemed by Christ the crucified. Yes, we've had a chip since circa 500; it's called the crucifix. O the Law can use it as a, "Look at what you did," but when Paul says, "I preach Christ and Him crucified" that's not how he preached it. Focus on the crucifix as the complete answer to your trespassing of this fence. Don't focus on changing your behavior. If you do, like last week, you'll be the ant in the conical cone of the antlion, struggling only to fall faster and deeper. Focus on the crucified Christ. Since a world's sins were paid for there, yours certainly were. So, rather than wanting to move the 6th Commandment here or there, move the crucifix ever before your eyes and watch how that changes you. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Midweek III (20200311); 6th Commandment, Passion Reading 3