The Problem of Lust (part 1)

Lust is a big problem. There’s a lot of sad news lately. Obvious political news aside, some other headlines also caught my attention. These were regarding the late Ravi Zacharias, who was a great Christian apologist. He is also the next headline of well-respected Christian leaders confirmed to have had several moral failures that were sexual in nature. We get used to hearing about these, and shake our heads, but this one hit me harder, because I have changed the way I view the body. I’ve redeemed my mind on this issue, and I no longer struggle with lust, and it’s easy! And it’s heartbreaking to hear how lust rears its ugly head. This does not have to be recurring news! All these men have had powerful ministries and have done a lot of good for the kingdom of God, but they all have a twisted theology of the body and they suffer greatly for it.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-29 (ESV):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.”

I believe his tone and argument in the context of the sermon on the mount is hyperbolic. If we took all his words literally, there would be a lot of blinded adulterers around. We say, “He’s exaggerating to make a point!” Instead of gouging out your eye, move your computer into the living room, and get internet filters or buy software. Get an accountability partner. These man-made attempts don’t work, and you can always cheat them if the root problem is never addressed.

While we rightly spiritualize Jesus’ words, we fail to take him literally where we should. He did not say whoever looks at a woman is guilty. He said whoever looks at a woman lustfully is guilty of sin. He literally said lust was the problem, not the looking or seeing. What about those who look at a woman without lustful intent?

Many Christians believe that’s an impossible notion. But I’m here to tell you that I’m a living testimony about just such a person. I have many new friends who can attest to the same. I used to look at others lustfully. I objectified others, all the time if I’m being honest. Many believe we all do and we’re even hardwired to do so. They can’t fathom someone not lusting, because they are lusting (classic projection, which I get because that was me a couple of years ago).

Now that I view the body as holy and very good (like God said it was in the garden of Eden) and not lewd, obscene or shameful, everything has changed, and for the better! Sure, what you do with the body can be wrong, but not the body itself. I hold the body in a higher esteem, worthy of awe and admiration towards the one who created us all in His very own image as the pinnacle of all creation. The highly sexualized world DOES NOT have this view. And NEITHER DOES the church! The world generally sees certain parts of the body as objects for selfish sexual gratification. The church sees this problem and thinks the only solution is to cover up. What they don’t realize is that what you cover and/or forbid creates the fertile ground for objectification to take place. They in essence agree with a twisted and distorted view that God never intended and the serpent has exploited throughout history.

Much can be said about this, which is why I’ve labeled this blog as a “part 1” in a series. Here are some conclusions to which I’ve arrived having experienced both the worldly view of the body and a renewed/godly view:

Lust is Fantasy. Love is reality.

My wife and I are so close right now, it’s crazy! I’d wish this closeness on my worst enemy (if I had any). Arousal comes as a result of our relationship, not her body. However, every time I see her, it’s like the rooster on the movie “Peter Rabbit” who is so shocked and elated and can’t believe the sun came up yet again. The fantasies are over and reality is so much better. I wish Ravi and the others could say the same.

I used to be lustFULL. Now I’m respectFULL.

Which is a more Christian attribute? Lust or respect? The average Christian would agree that respect is the obvious better choice. Then they tend to say that it’s impossible to see a naked woman without falling into lust. I’ve pushed that notion to the extreme. I’ve been around several naked women in non-sexual social nudity, and my wife feels more secure in our relationship than before, when I would try and fail to bounce my eyes at the sight of any flesh. I see them as whole persons, worthy of the utmost respect. We can be naked, unashamed, and lust free.

Losing battle vs. Victory vs. No battle

I used to spend the night occasionally at my parent’s house when it was prudent to be closer to business dealings. Knowing that I would be away, my wife would try to apply what she’s heard at countless marriage retreats when the men and women are separated and spoken to frankly. She’d make it a point to have sex with me to protect me for the next night. Want to be frank? Protective sex (aside from being joyless and being more dutiful) is only good for about 20 minutes, if your husband has a worldy view of the body. It would do no good. I knew going in, that the privacy afforded, away from my wife would result in a losing battle. The temptation would come in strong, and I’d try to be strong. Ultimately, I’d give in and lose. Momentary victories were few and far between and always with a struggle. Now, I’d rather drive home so I can be with her every night possible. We don’t even have to have sex, I just like being with her. But if I have to spend the night away, it’s no longer a losing battle, or a slight chance of victory, there just isn’t a battle at all! There is no allure and zero draw into lustful objectification through pornography. I’m so thankful! And so is my wife.

A parable

Two men were walking home from work one day, one naturist, the other not. Through an open window they saw a woman taking a shower. The non-naturist thought about the incident for weeks, fantasizing how he might persuade her to step out of the shower into his arms. But the nudist only smiled and walked on home. Which one of the two men has committed adultery in his heart?

This was written by a naturist friend who goes by Jochanaan. I love how profound and succinct the message is. It goes back to my fantasy vs. reality conclusion. I used to be the one who would replay the scene over and over in my head. Then I’d feel guilty for doing so. But it and other thoughts would constantly plague me. I thought this was every man’s battle and nothing worked to stop it. I didn’t treat my wife as well as I should have because I was double-minded. She, knowing my struggle, wouldn’t feel secure in herself or our relationship. I’d tell her she was my favorite person and the most beautiful, but how could she possibly believe it? Now, I’m the other guy in the story. I would simply smile and walk on home. None of the above problems exist in our lives any longer. And they aren’t coming back. The only problem is I can’t spend 24 hours a day with my wife, because I have to go to work before I can come home to her!

Now you tell me: should I go back to being the first guy? Which is the more holy attitude? Why would I ever want to go back to that existence?

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