The Leprosy of Lust

Consider with me some of Luther’s thoughts from a marriage sermon from 1545.

Today marriage is constantly talked about: Is marriage truly a Christian estate? Is marriage only one man and one woman? Is there really a need for marriage? What about people just living together?

Before the fall of man into sin God did indeed institute marriage:

Genesis 1 [27-28]: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’”

Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Luther says, “There it is; these are not my words nor those of any other man, but God’s Word. This is the way he created and ordained it.”

For this wedding, Luther’s primary text is Hebrews 13:4: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.” In his explanation to the sixth commandment he writes that “we lead a sexually pure and decent lives in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

This is difficult for human beings, as we sin and this sin Luther identifies as “leprosy of lust.” Because of our sin, marriage does not entirely and solely fulfill its original purpose, this we will never know and experience. The “leprosy of lust” is immoral and in all of us.

This issue of sexual immorality was just as big of an issue in Luther’s day as it is now (and has been throughout history). Luther addresses the issue of an unmarried couple living together. “It is like putting fire and straw together and commanding that there shall be neither smoke nor fire.” It is a dangerous situation and gives opportunity to fall to the devil’s temptation. And there are temptations for those who are married to sin in thought, word, or deeds. It is this “leprosy of lust” that leads to despising the gift of children and seeks only after selfish desires.

God granted the gift of marriage even before the fall into sin. And by his grace he continues to preserve marriage as he instituted it despite our sinful lusts. This is possible only by his love and grace and is shown to us in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5 declares that the Church is the bride of Christ. We see how a marriage is to be through Christ. Jesus loves his bride that he “gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” We, the Church, are not perfect in ourselves, we have the leprosy of lust; but Christ gave himself up for us so that we can be “presented in splendor” and through the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism we can be declared “holy and without blemish.”

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