Teaching Children the Seventh Commandment

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

[Note:  This article is based on the teachings of Christian Science.  You might wish to read the previous posts on the Seventh Commandment for background explanations.]

It may seem like an uphill battle to protect the innocence of modern young people. Some parents may give up too soon, thinking it an impossible task, or that it doesn’t really matter in today’s world. But purity and innocence are very important in our spiritual development. Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This Beatitude means that our understanding of God requires a purity of thought and motive.

The pleasures of the senses would adulterate, or muddy, our clear sense of God and His universe. We would continue to walk blindly through the mists of earth, if we did not attempt to rise above the clouds of sin. We must strive to teach our children how to avoid the temptation of adultery, if we want them to be happy and successful in life.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes:

“Too much cannot be done towards guarding and guiding well the germinating and inclining thought of childhood. To mould aright the first impressions of innocence, aids in perpetuating purity and in unfolding the immortal model, man in His image and likeness.” (First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany 261)

Although many parents and Sunday School teachers see the need for teaching the Seventh Commandment to young children, some may feel uncomfortable talking about this subject, and are looking for a way to approach this Commandment without bringing up the subject of sex. They may simply choose to skip this one!

However, Mary Baker Eddy does not exclude this Commandment in her requirement for young Sunday School pupils to be taught the “first lessons,” and that is wise. There is no need to avoid the subject of adultery, since there is a way to discuss its meaning with young ones without having to first explain “the birds and the bees.”

If you will first read my  previous essay on the Seventh Commandment, you will see that there is a broad meaning that covers physical, moral, and spiritual stages of thought, seen through the teachings of Christian Science. It is not just about sex! In that essay, you will find background material and ideas that would be appropriate for sharing with older children and teens.  You might also wish to see the Questions and Answers on the Seventh Commandments found in my book “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments, found elsewhere on this site.  Go to the About page to begin and then to the Ten Commandments page for a listing of Q&A’s.

It is never too early to begin the quest of inoculating our children against the virus of lust and adultery. Mrs. Eddy tells us:

“Dear reader, right thinking, right feeling, and right acting — honesty, purity, unselfishness — in youth tend to success, intellectuality, and happiness in manhood. To begin rightly enables one to end rightly, and thus it is that one achieves the Science of Life, demonstrates health, holiness, and immortality.” (Miscellany 174)

For Young Children:

When children are old enough to understand what it means to “keep a promise” – that when we agree with someone to do something, we must do it – they can be taught that this is part of what the Seventh Commandment means. That would be a good start. They can practice this Commandment by being loyal and obedient to their parents and family members, as well as being taught how to be loyal and obedient to God. Little children can also be taught how to keep out the impure thoughts that would make them rebel against their parents. They can be told that it is natural for them to love to do good and be good. You can play a game with them by pretending to be a “devil” or “angel,” and asking which thoughts to let in. Students can also learn to “stand porter at the door of thought.” (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, 392:24)

To help get you started with introducing the Seventh Commandment, you might read or explain to children it in the following way, or something similar:

“‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ means that we should not bring impure thoughts and behavior to our marriage. When a man and woman marry, they make a promise to love and honor each other. If one of them breaks that promise, by going to someone else for the kind of love and affection they should be getting only from their marriage partner, then it might be said that they are ‘committing adultery.’ In the same way, we also do not let impure thoughts muddy the understanding of ourselves as the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”

“The Seventh Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ helps us to keep our families together and to draw us closer to God. Adultery poisons the marriage relationship. Everyone suffers in some way. But think how happy a family would be if everyone was trusted to be loyal to the family. In the same way, we must be true and loyal to ourselves and to God. We must not look for happiness outside of our relationship with God, good. Learning to turn away from wrong behavior while young, helps us gain the self-discipline which will protect us from committing adultery. This will keep our lives pure and in obedience to God.” (Cole, Vicki Jones: “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments”)

To help both young and older children grasp some of the concepts involved, you can try to illustrate the problems that occur when things that need to remain pure are made impure. For instance, show how adding something such as dirt to a pure glass of water will cause the liquid to look or taste different. The impurity can spoil the drink. The drink of water becomes useless to humans who need pure water for nourishment or cleansing. Some children may understand a discussion on environmental pollution, and how that affects the quality of life on earth.

When the children see this cause and effect of mixing pollutants with pure water, discuss how God’s children, who were created pure and innocent, need to keep their thoughts and their hearts pure, as well, so that they can fulfill their purpose in life. Ask what kinds of thoughts or activities could poison their purity. Relate this to the Seventh Commandment, which tells us not to adulterate our relationships, or to break our promises. Ask your children or students why it is
important to keep our relationship with God pure. What would try to interfere with our unity with God? Can we hear or see God if our thoughts are clouded with wicked or impure suggestions?

For Older Children:

In addition to the above, you can discuss the importance of loyalty in our relationships with our friends. Older kids are learning what it means to be a true and loyal friend. They certainly know when others have betrayed them, even if they do not yet see how they could be guilty themselves! Ask for examples of loyalty or disloyalty in action. Perhaps they have felt let down or abandoned by others, or they have been the victim of gossip, teasing, or being ousted by a
new clique. Ask how they feel when this happens. Do they feel sorry when they have broken their own promises to a friend? How can they make it up? How often should they forgive another for a seemingly disloyal act? Discuss the Golden Rule and its relation to the Seventh Commandment.

Show how our friendships give us opportunities to practice the qualities that will prevent us from breaking the Seventh Commandment when we are older. We should be true and loyal friends — unselfish, humble, gracious, and self-controlled — so that we can be the same with any future marriage partner, and with God. Learning to obey all of the Ten Commandments, not just the Seventh, will be a shield and armor in life.

Older children can also benefit from the following areas of discussions, some of which are included in the lessons in my book, and most of which are explored in-depth in my previous essay on the Seventh Commandment:

1. Choosing friends. We need to make wise choices in friends, so that we are not tempted to spend our time in activities which would harm our purity, our morals, our intelligence, and integrity. Point out Mrs. Eddy’s quote: “Never breathe an immoral atmosphere, unless in the attempt to purify it.” (S&H 452)

2. Marriage. The Christian Science textbook has an entire chapter on the subject of “Marriage,” and older children and teens can begin to study Mrs. Eddy’s practical advice and spiritual interpretations on this special relationship. They will find in there this statement, which can be a springboard for further discussion:

“Marriage should improve the human species, becoming a barrier against vice, a protection to woman, strength to man, and a centre for the affections. This, however, in a majority of cases, is not its present tendency, and why? Because the education of the higher nature is neglected, and other considerations, — passion, frivolous amusements, personal adornment, display, and pride, — occupy thought.” (S&H 60)

3. Atonement. In addition to the chapter on “Marriage,” the chapter “Atonement and Eucharist” in Science and Health, introduces the subject of our “at-one-ment” or unity with God. This unity is the real covenant or bond that is never to be adulterated. Older kids ready to explore this truth of “Principle and idea” being One (See S&H, pg 465), can begin to understand the “Law of Love” that necessitates the Seventh Commandment.

4. Male/female qualities make up our completeness. This is discussed in the chapter “Marriage,” and throughout the textbook. See my previous essay for how this relates to the Seventh Commandment and for suggested citations to read.

5. Divorce and sexual affairs. Some children and teens are forced to deal with this up close and personal in their own families. Each situation needs to be handled according to the need, and with God’s guidance. Mercy and forgiveness is usually called for. Point out how Jesus handled the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8). Teach kids how to turn to their Father-Mother God for stability and comfort.

6. Influence of the media. While premarital sex and adultery certainly existed before the advent of books, movies, television, and the Internet, the onslaught of sexual images in today’s media cannot help but overwhelm young minds with ideas they are not prepared to handle. Since parents cannot always be around to monitor what their children watch, it is wise to at least try to teach children and teens the reasons why they should want to avoid explicit images of sex and violence on their own. Teach them to value innocence and purity, and to protect
these qualities as aggressively as they would protect their lives or their treasured possessions. If they can experience Christian Science healing, or the joys of a Christian outlook, they may want to keep their minds free from the sins that might muddy their vision of God, good, in their lives. As they learn more about Christian Science, they will begin to see the claims of power that unGodlike images have on our physical and mental health, and they may willingly avoid media that is obviously harmful to their peace of mind.

7. Happiness. Explain that those who search for sex or love outside of marriage, are not usually bad people, but are often simply victims of ignorance. They are “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Our happiness is not found in sex, or from the adulation of other people, but in Soul, God. Mary Baker Eddy writes:

“Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul. Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man. We cannot circumscribe happiness within the limits of personal sense. The senses confer no real enjoyment.” (S&H 60-61)

“Unselfish ambition, noble life-motives, and purity, — these constituents of thought, mingling, constitute individually and collectively true happiness, strength, and permanence.” (S&H 58)

“Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness; conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing  else can.” (Message for 1902 17)

CONCLUSION:

There appears to be so much immorality and sensuality abroad in the world, that getting through to our children sometimes may seem like trying to fill a leaky bucket with water.  However, if we can recognize the innate innocence and purity of God’s child that is the true identity of each and every one of us, and claim this forcefully in our daily prayers for our children, we can take heart that the Truth is doing its work to counteract the suggestions of evil. God’s angels are also on guard to protect the innocent ones, and will always come to the rescue of a receptive thought.

Children can be taught to love good and reject the temptations of evil, because they are naturally attracted to spiritual ideas.  God works with us; we just have to be willing to put in the effort and expect successful results!

To any earnest heart, young or old, the message is clear:

“Beloved children, the world has need of you, — and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives. You need also to watch, and pray that you preserve these virtues unstained, and lose them not through contact with the world. What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!”  (Miscellaneous Writings  110)

Copyright 2006, 2017  Vicki Jones Cole

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