Reflection for Friday 10th June 2022

Nigel Price

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Matthew 5.27-32
Concerning Adultery

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
Concerning Divorce
‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

This is a difficult set of passages. We all know couples who have divorced, you may even have experienced it yourself. From the various reported words of Jesus it seems that in line with Old Testament teaching his face was firmly set against it. The early church struggled with how to apply this in practice, and we still struggle today. We have to approach such passages from where we are rather than where we are not, and we find ourselves in an imperfect world where things go wrong, where we sometimes make the wrong choices, not in some Utopian place where everything is rosy. Compassion must trump ideals, so even if we aim high, we know that it will not always work out and we should not beat ourselves up if things do go wrong.
The first part of the reading tries to encourage us to aim for the ideal. As a rose is pruned in order to promote growth and produce better flowers, so if we can choose not to follow particular paths that are big temptations but would lead us in the wrong direction, then we can become better people. The passage is rather dramatic in suggesting that offending members should be cut off, but the logic is sound and whilst I would not want to encourage you to perform self-amputations, aiming to cut out those things which drive us away from God must be a good thing.
I have just been reading the first letter of Peter. In it he encourages his readers to stand firm in their faith even when faced with hostility and adversity because when you believe in Christ you will be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy! May you indeed know such joy.

And so we pray the Collect:
The Collect
O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen