Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me….and that’s enough of quoting that song.
Seriously, though, our culture is obsessed with sex. Many people seem to have an attitude that anything goes as long as you are not physically hurting someone else. After all, who are we to tell others how to live?
I don’t think God is too concerned about hurting feelings. He’s not giving us 10 suggestions. That’s more of Dr. Phil’s lane. God’s giving us the commandments that are to be foundational for our lives, and that includes human sexuality. So we get to the Seventh Commandment:
You shall not commit adultery.
It’s just one sentence. I wish it were that simple. I wish we could say, “Here’s the word for today. Be on your way.” It SEEMS self-explanatory. We can open the Bible, read the sentence, and say, “Huh! I didn’t know that. Now I’ll go change the way I live!”
But real life doesn’t work that way, does it?
While the Old Testament was about the behavior and monitoring the actions of people (like committing adultery), the New Testament is about the heart BEHIND the behavior. So once again we turn to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Man, Jesus doesn’t pull punches! It’s not just about the bad behavior, but everything that leads UP to the behavior in the first place. He would seem to be pretty serious about this topic. Why is it so important to catch lust early and to refuse to tolerate it? I think there are some reasons
First, affairs don’t just happen to you. It’s not something you fall into, no matter what garbage Hollywood tries to show us. You don’t go walking down the street and then, Bam, you’re in an affair. “Why is this happening to me?”
No, they start long before that. Where our eyes lead, our hearts will follow. And just as we build up a tolerance to substances, we can build up a tolerance to adulterous situations. It’s just a look, a glance. It’s just a little innocent flirtation. It was just a long hug….
Nobody jumps into bed with another married person in one day. If we don’t keep ourselves in check, we start to go down the wrong road. We don’t even have to go looking for it-it seeks us out. It finds us!
If you want to see how our culture has become numb to lust over the years, just look at department store catalogs. Way back in the day, underwear and lingerie sections of the catalog would simply have the picture of the clothing lying on the table. You see it, but it was not appropriate to see it on a person. Now catalogs don’t just show the underwear on people, but the editors try to make them look as tantalizing as possible. Sometimes they may send it out to people in the porn industry to model beforehand. Seeing Lori Buckby porn to showcase underwear is a lot different from seeing the articles on a table.
But I’m pretty sure if I put on the boxer briefs the guy in the photo has I won’t suddenly have 6-pack abs. Are they trying to sell me on the underwear or on the image that goes with it?
How prevalent is this problem in our society? It’s so prevalent that Playboy Magazine has made a move to remove nudity from its pages. It’s no longer a nudie mag. Why? Because you can find the same content (and worse) online for free on websites like tubev.sex, which are easier for people to get onto these days. So Playboy is shifting its publishing priorities to keep up with a sexually bankrupt culture.
The problem of lust doesn’t apply only to men. Women are also susceptible to lustful thoughts. Stereotypes aren’t always accurate, but men seem to be more visually oriented and women seem to be more imaginatively oriented when it comes to lust. For men, lust tends to accompany images (magazines, websites, videos, etc.). For women, lust tends to accompany things like romance novels and stories! Their imaginations can take them to far off lands with Ricardo. Romance stories about teenage vampires or 50 Shades of Grey drive women’s lust.
God’s design for healthy sexuality, in behavior AND thought, is between a man and the woman he is married to. Anything outside of that falls outside of God’s intended design for sexuality. It’s easy to make sure our behavior is right, but be twisted inside. That’s why Jesus says our inside needs to match the outside. It’s not just about behavior, but the thoughts that no one else can see.
In our culture we like to ask the question, “How far can I go?” But that’s the wrong question. The real question is, “How holy can I be?” Christian liberty allows us to do a variety of things while our conscience is still clear. But be clear-liberty does not give us permission to engage in lustful behavior, no matter how we try to justify it.
“It’s not porn sites like www.hdpornvideo.xxx that are the problem, it’s just the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.”
“It’s not lust, I’m just reading the novel and fantasizing about someone doing that to me and taking me away from here.”
Any sexuality that moves beyond the husband/wife relationships is not appropriate. Plenty of couples have had their faith questioned by their enjoyment of adult entertainment from sites like m-porn.xxx, though many would argue that engaging in lust is part of what makes us human, despite what the Bible may say.
Look at Samson. He was a strong dude physically. He was a weak dude morally. He was like Superman. Superman is impervious to everything except kryptonite. Samson is impervious to everything except women. They are his weakness. This isn’t a condemnation on women. This is condemnation on the lust within Samson that brings about his own downfall.
His eyes find the wrong woman. His heart follows.
Before you know it, his eyes have led him into a series of jacked up relationships, and his lust ends up bringing about his own death. All because he cannot control his eyes. So how do we protect ourselves?
Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes that I have not looked upon another woman.” It starts in the heart long before it ends up in the bed. Where our eyes wander, our hearts follow.
Where are your eyes? Where is your heart?
Stop wondering about how far you can go as a Christian. Are you doing everything you can to protect yourself, your eyes, and your heart?
Questions for Reflection
Do you desire to be a faithful person-faithful to God and faithful to your partner (or potential future partner)?
What are you willing to do to fight lust in your life?
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.