First he takes up our tendency, from earliest childhood, to get mad at one another. For this oh-so-common everyday offense, reconciliation is the only answer. Being salt and light to one another.
Then he takes up how we make victims of those around us through our infidelities to those whom we ourselves committed to love and cherish—specifically through lust, adultery, and divorce. Jesus tells the crowds around him that “anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32 NIV).
This is, nowadays, hard teaching. So many of us are divorced or have married someone who is divorced. And we live in such a hypersexual society that lust, adultery, and divorce seem too normal to be all that serious. Close to half of all high school students in the
report having had sexual intercourse. Our society’s various lusts—for porn, for
hook ups, relationships outside of our primary relationships—are fueled and facilitated
by the immediacy of the internet. Porn statistics are all over the place;
suffice it to say it’s ubiquitous. Somewhere between thirty to sixty percent of
all married Americans will be unfaithful at some time in their marriage. Half of
Americans who marry these days divorce. Infidelity of all kinds is so much a
part of our culture that we don’t even see it. And yet, according to Jesus,
though, infidelity is serious business—so much so that even just fantasizing
about it merits being “thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). U.S.
Even in Jesus’ own times—judging from the consternation Jesus’ listeners seem to display on the subject of divorce, though, as well as from accounts like that of the woman with five husbands that Jesus meets at the well—infidelity was probably pretty widespread and normal-seeming. Jesus speaks, then as now, right past the normalcy of infidelity to the problem at its root: it makes victims of everyone concerned, not only the adulterer’s spouse but the person who may later marries him or her and most especially the children of all the marriages involved, who are not only emotionally and relationally but economically damaged by divorce. Even adult children of divorced are very often deeply distraught when their parents divorce.
These victims, I think Jesus is saying, are the ones we need to be concerned with, not ourselves and our desires—or, as we like to say these days, our needs. He doesn’t offer any sort of counsel on infidelity beyond that word victim. Think of your victims, he seems to be preaching.