When I was growing up there was an older man, who was a frustrated “wannabe” civic and religious leader. Try as he might, he could never get elected to any public office, and in the same way, he was never appointed deacon or elder in his church. I don’t know that he ever found out what his obstacle to gaining the outward and visible signs of respect were. Everyone else knew, though it was not the topic of polite conversation.
For years this man had an on-going and well known affair with a widow in town. They were never seen in public together but the proof was undeniable. He had a loving and faithful hound dog named “Blue,” who followed him everywhere he went. It made no difference how he traveled — by foot, bicycle, or truck — Blue would find the man and wait at the front of the establishment and follow his master back home.
So it was with the widow’s house. No matter how often the man was seen “shoo-ing” Old Blue, even throwing rocks to chase him off, Blue would come back to the front door stoop of the widow’s home and settle down for the duration.
Because of the sin of adultery, which always seemed to find him out, the people of our town had no respect for this man — he was blinded by his sin, and could not seem to escape it. On the other hand, everyone loved and had the deepest regard for Old Blue, and admired his faithfulness and commitment to his master.
Adultery is not only about breaking a promise with the one you have pledged to love for all your life together, or about having sex outside of marriage, though it most certainly does include these manifestations of the sin, but it is about something deeper.
Adultery is about breaking faith. It is about breaking one’s faith and relationship with God, and with one another. Examples can be found when the Hebrew people of old broke faith with God — that is their commitment to God to live into relationship with Him, and one another. By breaking “The Law,” which was their committed way of life together, and by chasing after other gods, they committed adultery.
They broke their “oneness” as a people, their bonds of faith that held them together and united them as “the people of God” — God with whom they had a special and unique relationship. And, so it is with us when we break our commitments or chase after the idols and gods of our desire, rather the professed God of our faith and life — when we break our commitments to one another made in His name.
The questions for us are simple, where is our heart focused, our energy spent or our time prioritized? There is of course continued love and commitment from God, and there is forgiveness, even restoration and rebuilding. We must first repent of our willful and selfish pursuit of worldly pleasure and satisfaction, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness — remembering to focus our hearts Godward, and living to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind… And to love our neighbor as ourselves.
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The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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