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November 14, 2016, 11:22 AM

Screwtape on the Seventh Commandment


In Sunday school yesterday, we came to letter nine in The Screwtape Letters. I did not intentionally synch up the letter lessons with my preaching schedule. The sermon was on the Seventh Commandment. The Screwtape letter was on “pleasure.” I found this passage from Lewis prescient considering what I was about to preach.

Here’s the passage: Says Screwtape to his junior devil, Wormwood: “I have always found that the Trough periods of the human undulation provide excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations, particularly those of sex.” Later, he explains that pleasures, such as human sex, are gifts and inventions of the “Enemy” (God). The only way the devil can use pleasure is to exploit it. Distort it. Go beyond it. Hence, he says, “All we can do is to encourage the humans to take pleasures which our enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”

God did give us the gift of sex. It is one of the principal ways we reflect our Creator as we are able to usher life into creation through procreation. And yet, as Screwtape suggests, this good gift has been marred in all sorts of “beyond.” Unfaithfulness in marriage is a blemish to that gift. Although I did not spend any time yesterday on it, divorce is a blemish to that gift. And, all the ways we see sex commodified and glorified and modified in our present culture, are blemishes on that good gift.

I know that the sermon yesterday probably struck more like a thud, rather than an “aha!” moment. The Church of Jesus has been struggling for the last 25 years, or so, with sexual politics. Same-sex marriage (fixed!); gender fluidity (not fixed!); and cohabitation, being major elephants in the sanctuary that no one wants to deal with. Perhaps the deafening and cowardly silence from pulpits and lecterns is a significant reason, among a plethora more, that these issues have transformed what was once black & white to the present large gray mass in our collective, ethical thinking.

Uncle Screwtape must be pleased.


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