You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27)
This is another halakhaic statement. Once again, Halakhah, or the way of life regarded as the acceptable norm of behaviour, focused on outward conformity to the Law but said nothing about the attitude of the heart.
This commandment also sounds simple on the surface but, like murder, it has a much deeper root. Let’s go back to the Torah to unpack its meaning. The roots of this command come from who God is.
The most well-known part of the Sh’mah prayer recited in the synagogue in the morning and evening services and at bedtime is found in Deut. 6:4-5:
Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength . . .
God created man in His own image and likeness,
. . . In the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:27b)
What is the image of God? Theologians enter into long and involved discussions about the image of God and differ widely in their interpretations. What does Torah say?
The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut. 6:4)
God is one (echad), not one person, but three in one, unity in diversity. God created the entire universe to be interactive and interdependent as a reflection of who He is. Everything God put into human beings that resembles Him – self-awareness, self-determination, morality, love, and the ability to commune with Him – all flow into God’s purpose that we should be one with Him, one with humanity and one with creation.
The world is echad – everything functions as a unit, e.g., the ocean currents affect the climate of the earth, the pull of the moon causes the tides, etc. God’s creation reflects His image. Therefore, we find our fulfilment in pursuing wholeness – echad – and anything that sabotages echad brings destruction.
The deepest cry in our heart is to be connected in oneness because God is one. A hypocrite is one who divided inside of himself.
For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Gen. 2:24)
Marriage is not just companionship for life, a cure for loneliness, or legalised sex. At its core is a picture of God’s echad.
Sexuality is much more than just a physical act. To a Hebrew person, having sex constituted marriage. To rape a woman meant you were married to her. There is no sex in heaven because we won’t need the picture any more. Our sex drive is strong because of our need to be connected in an echad relationship. Marriage is supposed to be a demonstration, not just an announcement of God’s oneness.
When Adam disobeyed God, he destroyed the unity between himself and God and threw the universe out of sync with Him, affecting all of the creation. This is evident in the natural world where creatures prey on creatures and the plant world is invaded by weeds and toxic plants. All of the creation awaits restoration as does redeemed mankind.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Rom. 8:20-21)
God is one and He keeps everything together in unity The force that holds the universe together is called echad – oneness. If we do anything that sabotages unity, we go against the very power that holds the universe together. Since we are part of the universe, we are actually a part of what is tearing the universe apart.
Adultery leaves a person disjointed and fractured. Sex is only a part of adultery. Anything we do that sabotages unity is adultery. Division in the church is the opposite of echad. Whatever is in the atmosphere that destroys unity is adultery.
Therefore, to look lustfully at a woman is a symptom of echad already disrupted. Adultery does not break a marriage. It is a sign of a marriage relationship already broken. It has serious consequences because it is part of the force that tears lives, families, communities and nations apart.
Adultery is contrary to the spirit of Torah. It is also evidence that the marriage relationship is devoid of mercy. Where mercy functions within a family, that which is weightiest in God is at work, uniting and holding relationships together and contributing to the echad-ness of the family.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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