Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What is the Sixth Commandment?
You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean?
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.
Here is a helpful summary found in Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord:
Luther had been married for almost four years when he wrote the Large Catechism. His former life as a monk makes his comments on the Sixth Commandment all the more interesting and powerful. Luther keenly discerns that chastity is not a matter of vowing to live a celibate life, but of honoring God and one's spouse with one's whole being: thoughts, words, and actions. Marriage should be cherished and honored as a divine estate. God created this institution before all others and blessed it above all the rest; and since He brings children into the world through it, He provides all other estates for its support and benefit. Luther condemns forced celibacy with the Roman Church, but recognizes that God does exempt some from married life, either because they are unsuited to it or because they possess the supernatural gift of chastity. The Sixth Commandment releases those who have taken a vow of chastity but who have not been given this supernatural gifts. For Luther, God intended marriage not only to prevent sin, but also as a means by which husbands and wives love and cherish each other. Marriage is a precious good work far superior to the contrived spiritual estates of monks and nuns.
But the Sixth Commandment applies more broadly than just to husbands and wives. Chastity is for the teenager, the single college student, and the widow, just as it is for the husband and the wife.
When the gifts of God are used in their proper place, they remain God's gifts. In this case, the gift is our human sexuality. Satan would have us use God's gifts in places never dreamed of by the giver of the gift--God himself. This is how Satan distorts God's good gifts, and in turn, destroys human life.
A curb tells me where it is good to drive my car. But if I decided that I knew better than the curb, bad things would happen. If I drove on the side walk, or in my neighbors lawn, the results would destroy. So it is with the gift of human sexuality, regardless of our age.
So how do you know if you've sinned against the Sixth Commandment? Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Have I used for my own pleasure my ears to hear stories or incite cravings of the body for one who is not my spouse, or my mouth to speak such words and stories?
- Have I indulged my eyes with longing for my sexual satisfaction from a man or a woman who is not my spouse?
- Have I dishonored marriage by ridicule, divorce, or neglecting to encourage others to be faithful to their spouses in the fear of God?
- Have I had sexual intercourse with a man or woman who is not my spouse?
- Have I dishonored my spouse by neglecting to care for my spouse's body, mind, feelings, and needs, withdrawing faithfulness from my spouse?
- Have I failed to trust God to bless us in our marriage, even in times of trouble?
- Have I neglected to pray for my spouse, to attend the Divine Service together, and to live in the fear and love of God in times of sexual temptation?
- Have I engaged in homosexual thoughts, words, or deeds, or given support to homosexual activity?
These questions will, by the Spirit of God, reveal to us where the Old Adam remains, and where our sinful flesh rages on. But it will also point us to Christ, our Bridegroom, who loves his bride, the church, unconditionally, and gives his own righteousness so that you and I may wear the white dress of righteousness ourselves. The Law will show us our sin, but it will point us to our Savior, and in this way, The Law of God is ALWAYS good! Amen.