First, Cedrick Baker provides a reflection on his thoughts after seeing the verdict of Derek Chauvin, along with more killings of black individuals at the hands of law enforcement. This was followed by a teaching from Greg on Jesus’ challenge to common views of adultery.
Cedrick Baker opened the time of teaching by sharing his thoughts on the verdict of Derek Chauvin, the funeral of Daunte Wright and multiple killings of black people around the country. While there are encouraging signs, he said, it is also obvious that the system remains broken. He asked us to continue to consider our response to the injustice and challenged us to embrace the discomfort that we might experience as we champion the cause of seeing all people flourish. He founded this challenge on Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:1-2, showing us that we must not be conformed to the patterns of this world.
After Cedrick spoke, Greg offered us “sermon #2” as he called it. He opened by showing us that the way that we perceive the current experience of racial tension and injustice occurs in our imagination. In order for things to change, it has to start with a change in the way we imagine the world. Everyone has an imaginative narrative we live in, a story we tell ourselves that provides us with a way of interpreting the world. This imaginative narrative determines what we notice and don’t notice, along with providing a framework for how we respond to events. Jesus says that what we do in our inner imaginative world is as important as what we do with our bodies in the outer world.
This shapes how Jesus views sex, as illustrated by the focus passage of this week. The imagination is central to how God views sex and sexual sin. Let’s consider a few points. First, this is not merely a teaching for “men.” It applies to both men and women, even though Jesus applied this to the men of his day.
Second, lust is imagining others in sexually inappropriate ways. We cannot ascribe worth to others while imagining them as a sexual object. This is distinct from temptation. It refers to what we do with that temptation in our imagination. As soon as find yourself beginning to imagine such things – things that are not consistent with the reign of God — it’s vital to turn your mind to the things the Bible tells us to turn our minds to. As Paul teaches in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Third, Jesus is using hyperbole in his teaching on lust and sex. In saying that we are to “cut off our hand,” He is communicating that it is extremely important. In addition, this also applies to Jesus’ reference to going to hell, as it relates to sexual sin. Jesus is teaching that when you imagine having sex with a person who is not your spouse—lust—you are moving in the direction that is absolutely contrary to the direction of the Kingdom of God. This a road that moves away from life and love toward destruction and death.
Finally, how does this apply to unmarried people, since adultery is unfaithfulness to your marriage partner? Basically, Jesus was saying that when we are imagining another in a sexual way, we are breaking God’s ideal for sex. It is like cheating on one’s future spouse. Sex is a sign of the marriage covenant and when we break that ideal, which we all have done, we are walking away from what God has for us. This is not limited to those who are married. Anyone can get caught in the harmful trap of imagining others in a sexual way.
Greg concludes by saying that all have fallen into this trap in some form, and that we must avoid judging others. Instead we must embrace the call to meet each other “at the bottom,” without judgment. We must receive God’s grace and healing for ourselves and have mercy on others.
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I want to pass this along for your perusal, Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers- a book by Miguel A. De La Torre.