It’s funny. Some days I can’t remember what I walked in the kitchen for, and it’s only when my kids complain that I haven’t fed them in a while that I remember to make dinner! Other days memories, even from long ago, are clear as a bell.
I remember how I felt when Jimmy Carter was elected. At six, I was far too young to know much about that election or Jimmy Carter’s politics, but I knew adults around me were concerned, and that was cause enough to concern me too.
I remember sitting with my Mom and her comforting me, “The pendulum always swings the other way eventually. Sometimes when it goes the wrong way, it brings us back to balance and a middle ground.”
I wasn’t thrilled with her explanation, but there’s not much a six year old can do politically so I had to live with it. Besides, she taught me a lesson I try to take into my own parenting when I’m afraid or think I’m not good enough but know my kids are looking to me for guidance. If mom was okay, I could be too.
But it’s not the state of our country or the upcoming presidential election that concerns me here (although I could say a lot about this upcoming election and the candidates we’ve allowed in the race!)
What concerns me is the sin of adultery and how far its pendulum has swung.
Actually, maybe it is directly related to the state of our country…
Condemnation of Infidelity & Adultery
Unlike other evils such as theft and murder which we are obviously bad, adultery takes the gift of sex which should be good and allows it to cause pain and confusion. The twist of something good becoming so hurtful is a difficult concept to grasp. It reaches beyond physical assault to attack the heart, mind, and soul, threatening to kill each.
Moses understood that.
The pharisees understood that.
They were justified in wanting to banish the woman caught in adultery. They knew the truth in, “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you your future.”
By allowing an adulterer to go on as if nothing happened, they would have invited further adultery into their communities. The envelope would have been pushed a little farther, “Well, she did this. I can surely just do this little bit more…”
Because they understood the insidious nature of adultery and that it literally puts the souls of so many at risk for eternal damnation, the law encouraged condemnation and death by stoning. They didn’t know another way to handle it.
The Pendulum Swings Slowly & Adultery is Promoted
At some point between the presentation of the adulterous woman and today, the pendulum swung. In civilized societies we no longer stone for adultery (Muslim societies where stoning takes place are not civilized).
In fact, we consider it an expression of freedom and empowerment for women to have sex when, where, and with whom they desire. We tell them they can eliminate responsibility thanks to breakthroughs in STD treatment and the extermination of their unborn children through abortion.
Society attempts to separate the physical body from the heart, mind, and soul, but a teen who faces the pain and humiliation of needing STD testing, a college student who has been diagnosed with herpes and now must explain to all future love interests, and an old woman who, at odd, unexpected moments, remembers the child in her womb who never saw the light of day, all know that body, heart, mind, and soul cannot be separated. They all know free sex does not give freedom and empowerment as promised.
But because we can’t grasp that something so good can be so bad, we refuse to return to the difficult to live by but rewarding value of chastity. Instead society mistakenly assumes it needs to push sexuality farther to attain freedom and empowerment it was never promised through sex.
Today, sexual sin is promoted on television as shows depicting polygamy, teen parenting, gay relationships, and open living arrangements become more common than one man-one woman forever households.
This is even true in our children’s broadcasting on the Disney channel and in cartoons. We say kids need role models in families like theirs so we show broken, divorced, single parent families on television but then glamorize those families so that they don’t reflect reality at all.
Divorce, abandonment, and living together are common and seen as ways to eliminate unhappiness. This is true despite the heartache and holes breakups cause and despite evidence showing that sticking with Marriage and working through difficulties provides longer lasting and more fulfilling happiness, not just for children, but for adults as well.
So when did this pendulum swing occur? What year can we point to as the tipping point? We can’t. The thing about a pendulum is that it can, at times, swing very slowly, and when Satan is holding the end of the string, he is a patient manipulator.
Not Acting is Acting.
Not Speaking Against Adultery is Promoting Adultery
The pendulum had gusts take it momentarily, like in 1973 when abortion was legalized in the United States, but overall, it swung slowly as Satan knew it must to reach this point. Otherwise society would have balked. Try introducing lifestyles common today to communities 100 years ago. It wouldn’t have happened, but gradual slides toward normalizing adultery over time allows people to barely notice.
The slow gradual swing makes most people ignorant about who controls the string. How can something as good as sex be controlled by evil. We allow the pendulum to swing further because we turn a blind eye or refuse to believe what the Bible tells us. We scoff and consider chastity and virginity unsophisticated.
Some of us are friends with the adulterer. She is so much fun to hang out with. She has a great job and can throw a great party. He takes trips all over and can carry on interesting conversations. We don’t want to rock the boat by telling our friends they should return to their spouses, and so we utter empty words of sympathy or encourage them to break up as so many others have done. Then we return to our lives and leave others to deal with the consequences of our noninvolvement.
Some of us are afraid to speak up because we will be ridiculed. No doubt about it. Despite anti-bullying and tolerance campaigns in our schools and despite the lip service paid to free speech in our media, when you have a view that is pro-Christian, and pro-chastity, you will be ridiculed.
And so we are silent, and by our very silence we too promote adultery.
And the pendulum is still swinging.
New perversions are being introduced;
there is no end in sight.
And still we are silent.
Forgiveness Offered by Jesus is no Middle Ground
In Sunday’s Gospel we see the woman caught in adultery and the crowd that wants to stone her to death for the crime she committed.
We also see Jesus bend down and write in the sand, stand to address the pharisees and the crowd, bend down to write in the sand again while the crowd disperses, and stand to finally address the woman. We don’t know what the Savior wrote in the sand that day, but God felt it was important to mention all the standing and bending He did.
I believe Jesus first bent to look into the woman’s eyes and see her heart and soul. Too often adultery results from an unwillingness to look into the eyes of another. Being unfaithful, talking badly about your spouse to a friend, or doing anything that may cause harm is easier when you don’t put blinders on. If you are tempted instead of weakly giving in spend time a long time over time looking closely into your spouse’s eyes first. Self serving actions are harder to commit when you really see the other person.
Without saying a word, Jesus determined how the woman felt: vulnerable, frightened, ashamed, exposed. Too often we look at another with our own agenda, planning what we’ll say if given a chance. Jesus shows us the power in silence and patience when confronting the sinner. He did not immediately point out her sin or throw how much He had done for her in her face. He did not inflict further humiliation even though He had the right to do so. He silently determined she was willing to admit her sin and seek repentance.
He then stood to address the crowd doing the same for them. Their eyes held no vulnerability, fear, shame, or exposure. They were not suffering for their sins or from the desire to protect their families from the affect of adultery. Their eyes held self-serving anger, a haughty desire to ridicule, and a better-than-thou pride not worthy of His address but worthy of His dismissal.
Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
~ Jesus (John 8:7)
The souls of the crowd knew their guilt as clearly as souls heading toward Hell will know of theirs upon human death.
Jesus silently bent again while the crowd dispersed. The sinful woman had been wrong. Waiting for her condemners to leave and for Jesus to cast His judgement yet still forgive must have been a kind of purgatory for her. She must have longed to hear His voice while He remained silent, as He often does for us, waiting for her to be alone and to fully turn herself over to Him
Finally He stood and addressed the woman. He was no longer down on her level. He refused to join her on the ground but stood firm providing her literally with someone to look up to, showing her what a strong man, a man who would not use her and leave would be and He tells her she is forgive and to
Go and sin no more.
Your Take on Adultery
The pendulum has swing over the past 2000 years. We no longer stone for adultery, which is a good thing, but we’ve also mistaken Jesus’ forgiveness with acceptance. We’ve forgotten the way the historical event ends, with His command to sin no more, and then we can’t understand why life doesn’t turn out the way we think it should.
Many deny promoting adultery, infidelity, sexual promiscuity, and perversions, but openly accept gay marriage, the Day of Silence taking place April 15th in schools, pro-choice political candidates and other liberal agendas.
Many provide birth control pills over Bible reading with their daughters and encourage “boys to be boys” instead of strong, sacrificial men. They encourage television programs promoting liberal agendas as televisions begin to outnumber people in American homes. They buy movie tickets promoting sexual promiscuity and dismiss the messages ingrained. They turn on children’s shows not considering messages delivered to little hearts about how self worth is attained and what is truly valuable.
Many engage in premarital and extramarital sex sometimes excusing it with plans to marry someday and then wonder why their relationships and even their marriages don’t last. We see affairs followed by false marriages and the high rate of divorce in second and third marriages and blame the sacrament rather than the people engaging in it or the clergy who perform ceremonies without truly knowing the couple or their circumstances.
We see this in young people who have such kind hearts and want to provide hope for others, in the young woman who bends down to save the bad boy while longing for Prince Charming to give her purpose. We watch helplessly as she bends down and then lays with the sinner rather than rising up before addressing him.
We mistake our wanting to help with our power to do so. We play Jesus but forget that even He only bent down and did not actually join the woman in her dirt. We forget He then stood above her, giving her someone to look up to, before addressing her. We forget to guard and lead our hearts, and our desire to do good, overwhelms our ability to do so.
We think we are strong enough to resist temptation when the one prayer given to us directly from the only one who can save clearly states otherwise. Jesus taught us to pray “Lead me not into temptation,” because He knows how weak we are, especially when it comes to the gift of sex.
The thing about the pendulum swinging is that each of us has a part in it. There is no middle ground when it comes to sexual sin. We cannot say we don’t agree prostitution but quote Pretty Woman and give our daughters subtle hope that fairy tales such as these come true. We cannot elect politicians who say abortion is immoral but will vote for it because their constituents want it, and we cannot say we will have sex before marriage because we are planning to marry. It doesn’t work that way.
Jesus didn’t tell the woman, “Go and sin no more – unless you’re planning to get married and then you can bend the rules a little.” He said simply, “Go and do not sin again.” End of story because when we give a little of ourselves away even in the tiniest misuse of the gift of sexuality, we help swing the pendulum for future generations. There is no middle ground.
There is either condemnation and death or forgiveness and freedom.
Many of us have been the woman convicted of adultery. We just don’t want to see ourselves that way. It’s easier to point fingers than to look into the eyes of Jesus and see our sin exposed, but it is precisely that easy road that leads to destruction.
We are called to confess our sins. Be humble. Be gracious. The same free will that allowed you to fall can allow you to rise. Choose to seek forgiveness and then repent. Change your ways so that you do not fall into old habits. Deny yourself until you are stronger. Wait for what God has planned rather tan rushing into what you desire.
Stand up and speak out. You were not made to seek a middle ground, to be lukewarm and spit from the Lord’s mouth in the judgment. You were made to be courageous, to be on fire with the Holy Spirit. Dare to be different.
And, as always, thanks for commenting, liking, following, and sharing!
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