Protecting marriages

God says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

Luther explains, “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

Salvageable adds: In explaining most of the commandments, Luther lists things we should not do as well as things we should do. Only in the first commandment and in this commandment does Luther omit the negatives and describe only the positives. Perhaps he feared that the list of things we should not do regarding marriage and intimacy would become too long to be practical. Perhaps he feared that such a list would give people sinful ideas. Probably, though, Luther wanted to emphasize the positive about a matter that too often is discussed only in negative terms.

As people hunger for food and thirst for water, so most people have an appetite for the intimacy that belongs in marriage. God created that appetite for good reasons, including the mutual support of a man and a woman, and the raising of children in a secure environment. As people can crave food and drink that is not healthy for them, so people can seek to satisfy their desire for intimacy in ways that are impure and indecent. This commandment of God protects marriages. Marriage is important to God. In a perfect world, he created a man and a woman, both in his image, to love and honor each other, to care for the planet and all that it contains and to be helpers or teammates to one another.

The devil and the sinful world hate everything that is good. They seek to damage or destroy the good things God made, twisting those good things into things that are adulterated, indecent, and impure. Whether a person is married or single, that person should respect the marriages of others and not seek to undermine them, whether for personal gain or just out of spite and envy. Jesus said that looking at another person for the purpose of lust is adultery, but the world surrounds us with suggestive images, seeking to inspire lust within us. Lust is sinful, not merely because of this commandment, but also because it treats another person as an object, an It, rather than a person, a Thou. The devil has an additional trick, throwing guilt at a person who has been tempted and has resisted the temptation. Luther had an expression for people who felt guilty about experiencing temptation: “You cannot keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” When we encounter temptations to sin and resist them, we should feel thankful and not guilty, for we are partaking in the victory Jesus won over all evil.

Also, Luther may have noted how Bible writers often compare idolatry to adultery. They do this because God compares his people—Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament—to his Bride, saying that he loves his people as a husband loves his wife. Any attack on marriage, then, is an attack on love in general and on God’s love in particular. Paul counseled husbands to love their lives as Christ loves the Church; he goes on to paint a picture of Christ purifying the Church by his own sacrifice to make her holy and acceptable. Having been made pure, we want to remain pure. Christ’s forgiveness is available every day to remove the stain of sin from our lives. This redemption changes us, subtracting lust from our hearts, teaching us truly to love, building intimate love within marriages, and causing us to respect also the marriages of others. J.

The Haircut

When I saw myself in the family photographs from our Christmas gathering, I knew that the time had come for me to have my hair cut. I don’t schedule haircuts on a regular basis—I tend to go for a haircut when I feel the need. Usually I get a shorter haircut at the beginning of summer and let my hair grow longer during the winter. The way my hair was sticking out over my ears in the pictures, though, made me decide that it was time for a trim.

My last haircut was in August, just before classes began. After that haircut, I told my family and my friends, “I’m not going to that barber again!” As I intended, they asked me why, and I told them, “He’s moving to Canada,” which was the truth. But for the past twelve years or so, he has been my regular barber, which meant that it was time to shop around for a new place to have my hair cut.

I did some online shopping, comparing prices at national chains, which were much higher than what I had been paying. Finally, I decided to have my hair cut by a student at the local salon and styling school. The contrast between that salon and the traditional American barber shop is immense. The barber shop is rarely entered by a woman, but in the salon women far outnumbered men (though I was not the only man there). The barber shop had one barber, one chair, and one set of tools, but the salon was equipped to handle many customers at once. The barber shop had no background music, just quiet conversation between the barber and his customers; the salon had a radio tuned to a top forty station playing the latest hits, whatever they may be.

The biggest change, though, was for me to sit in a chair and have a young woman, all of eighteen years old, begin running her fingers through my hair. My barber was adept, but his manner was definitely masculine; the young woman’s gentle touch took me by surprise at first. We did not have much to say to each other, apart from discussing what kind of haircut I wanted. The lack of conversation drew my attention all the more to the intimacy of our situation, even in a crowded salon, filled with the buzz of many voices.

She even shampooed my hair after the haircut, which is the regular policy at the salon. I am used to washing my own hair, not to having someone else wash it for me. That morning I walked out of the salon with shorter hair, but also with the feeling that I had experienced something new and different.

Will I go back to the same salon? Probably, but most likely not until summer approaches and I am ready for my summer cut. J.