Lent 3 Midweek (6th Commandment; Ephesians 5:22–33)
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
Of all the Commandments besides the 1st Commandment, this is the most appropriate one to look at in Lent. The 1st Commandment (“You shall have no other gods”) would fit in Lent because Lent is all about what Jesus, your God, has done to save you. Jesus is the “God” of the 1st Commandment, who died and rose for you. But we looked at the 1st Commandment in Advent, so we’re left with the 6th Commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”).
Why is the 6th Commandment appropriate for Lent? Moral slide, right? Makes sense. Sex sells, and all that. Farther and farther into darkness we go. We’ve got a nation where it’s acceptable, praised, and legal, very much legal, to have men marry men, women marry women. God still gives people, groups, and nations over “to the dishonorable passions” they desire, as Paul says.
Why is the 6th Commandment appropriate for Lent? Repentance. Yeah. That. Gotta be. Repentance. For what people watch on TV, in theaters, and dark parts of the internet. Repentance for the living together. Repentance for anything that draws eyes, minds, hearts, and bodies into sin.
But repentance isn’t a them, out there, sort of thing. No, repentance is a you only sort of thing. None of us have an excuse, as Paul says. “In passing judgment on another you condemn yourself.” The message of the Scriptures certainly brings people out of darkness and into the Light of Jesus, but that’s not a moral thing.
No, repentance is the admission that you have failed. No matter what’s going on out there (no fault divorce, living together, so-called marriage, intimacy outside of marriage, or whatever else), the reality is that anything that causes “husband and wife” to not “love and honor each other,” breaks this commandment. Anything that causes our eyes, hearts, minds, and bodies to wander from our spouse or live unchastely breaks this Commandment.
Adultery. Affection. Anger. Abuse. Divorce. All shatter this and the First Commandment. So, is all of this why the 6th Commandment is the most appropriate Commandment for Lent? NO! No, it’s not! I’m gonna say that again. None of what I’ve talked about so far is why the 6th Commandment should get more time in Lent. All those moral issues are issues that many unbelievers would end up agreeing with us on.
That’s mankind. We focus on the outside, but forget the reason for things, the why. We get all hung up about whether it’s blue, red, or rainbow paint on the marriage house, but meanwhile mankind in the Garden already turned the 6th Commandment (and all other Commandments) into a dumpster fire.
So, why is the 6th Commandment appropriate for Lent? Because MARRIAGE IS ALL ABOUT CHRIST SAVING HIS CHURCH. Why did the LORD create Eve just for Adam? Christ saving the Church. Why was Adam the only man in all the world for Eve? Christ saving the Church. Why does God continue to join man and wife together? Christ saving the Church. Most of the world, Christians and non-Christians, don’t understand this. But that’s what St. Paul shows us in our reading tonight. He blows open the door on our understanding of marriage. MARRIAGE IS ALL ABOUT CHRIST SAVING HIS CHURCH, and so the 6th Commandment is also all about Christ saving the Church, too.
All the icky and sad things we do to break this Commandment, aren’t icky and sad because our version of icky and sad is better than other people’s. That our sensibilities are correct. No, they’re icky and sad (and they really are those things) all because it detracts from Christ. All the things that go against the 6th Commandment not only break marriages, but they break the picture of Christ saving the Church.
Listen to what Paul says: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. ”
Lent is all about that. The Church being saved by Christ, that’s how she submits. Christ dies for the Church, that’s how He loves her. That’s the story of Lent. The story of Lent is the story of Jesus leaving His Father in heaven, leaving His mother at the cross, to give His life to ransom His bride, save her, make her holy and perfect. As Eve was formed from Adam’s side, so the “washing of water and the word” the “nourishment” of Jesus’ body and blood are pictured in His pierced side, blood and water flowing out. That’s Lent, and that’s what marriage and the 6th Commandment are all about.
Christ and the Church don’t try things out first to see if it will work. Christ is all in—even to death on the cross. Christ, the husband, isn’t united to Himself, another Christ. The Church, the bride, isn’t saved by herself, she’s saved by her husband, Christ. The Bride has all her heart and eyes only on Him who gave His life for her. Christ doesn’t cheat. Christ doesn’t go after other brides. He has only one—His Church. Christ will never divorce her. He has absolutely no cause! He died for her, baptized her, and now “she’s perfect, spotless, no wrinkles.”
All the sins that break the 6th Commandment at the core break the foundation of it all, break the picture of Christ saving His bride the Church. But all those sins are exactly the sins Jesus died for. He shed His blood for them. Gave Baptism to wash the away. Gave His body and blood to sprinkle clean for every sort of icky and sad thing we do with our bodies and marriage.
You, too! Jesus died for all the ways you break this Commandment. He set you free. In Him you aren’t any of the labels we give to people who break this Commandment. In Him, and only in Him, there’s no cheater, or divorcee. In Him, there’s no lust or impure, unchaste thoughts, words, or deeds. In Him no anger or arguments. You aren’t defined by those things. You’re defined by Jesus, your Savior, and His forgiveness.
You don’t have to do those things anymore! They aren’t you. Not in Jesus. You’re free to “fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame.” You’re free and pure—baptized. You’re free to set your mind on things above, the heavenly Word spoken to you: “I forgive you all your sins.” You’re free, your heart’s been “sprinkled clean” by the body and blood of Jesus. Your body is set free to be a living sacrifice for your spouse. Jesus and His Gifts are what define you in His sight.
So, why is the 6th Commandment appropriate for Lent? We can quickly come up with a laundry list of reasons why. But really it’s because MARRIAGE IS ABOUT CHRIST SAVING HIS CHURCH. That’s what Ephesians 5 tells us. Even from Eden it was so. Even today still is. Christ gave Himself into death for His Bride, the Church. For you and me. We’re washed and pure from everything impure. In Jesus’ sight you’re perfect and spotless. He made sure of that. He presents you that way to His Father, too. CHRIST SAVING HIS CHURCH—that’s you! That’s Lent.
INI + AMEN.