Tina Turner said, “You must understand though the touch of your hand, makes my pulse react. That it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl, opposites attract, it’s physical, only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that.”
What’s love got to do with it? Isn’t it a second-hand emotion? Or in our case, what’s lust got to do with it?
For Jesus, and contrary Turner, love and lust aren’t always as perceivable as we think.
For Jesus, lust and love are far more serious than physical or logical. Contrary Turner, we must not ignore it, because it means more than we think.
Listen to the Rabbi’s words when He inaugurates this new humanity, this alternate society governed by righteousness, agape love, and peace (shalom; wholeness). Zigging where His and our current culture is zagging, listen to His words afresh.
“You’ve heard 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 you right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” -Matthew 5:27-30
These words are far from our cultural moment, huh? Returning to our title, what’s LUST got to do with it?
Consider the famous Billie Eilish, in NY Post dated December of 2021, she states, “porn destroyed by brain.” She admits she began watching more and more graphic types, which warped her ideas about sex and relationships.
So, what’s going on?
People are stuck. There’s a sobriety on how our longings and lust drive us. Sex is taking us, it seems, the more we try to run after it, the more we can’t grasp what we think it will give us. It doesn’t deliver. Yet, on the other hand, no matter how hard we try to flee it, it seems we can’t avoid it.
Jesus is saying that we don’t have a too high view of sex, we have a too low view of it. We are dimmed in our awareness to its potency, purity, and power.
Saint John Paul II, author of Theology of the Body, in his scholarly language says:
“The very manner of which we conceive in our sexual desires must be, from the start, to the greatest extent possible, freed from purely impulse oriented, naturalistic presuppositions, and shaped personalistically.”
What does that mean?
Well, there was a song by the Blood Hound Gang and in their song, they say:
“You and mem, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.”
That is naturalistic. I, either take things into my own hands, pun intended – or – I indulge in my fanciful desires.
This “liberty” means that I satiate whatever percolating desires I have with whomever, however, and whenever I want. I’m led by my physiology Or, in the language of the NT, flesh.
So, the need we have is not for indulgence, but for sexual integrity.
Lust, from my recollection, is a religious word, and what Jesus is being really stern about is something this is a core problem of the human condition, objectifying personhood.
So, in a sense, when we are ruled by our primal desires, NT; flesh, we subtly give into what Richard Dawkins calls the “selfish gene” that perpetuates or what the sociologist Carl Trueman says, “we move from MORAL laws that govern the univ, to me-centered laws.”
So, in short, the prevailing psyche of our day says, sexual desire is an appetite. Not something that points to a deeper longing. It is another bodily desire that unless fed will wither away. On the one hand, they say sex is nothing, it’s not a big deal. And, still with the gender identity politics, they say sex is my right and everything.
The view is consumeristic. Yet, the whole Library of Scripture, affirmed by Jesus, says if you follow your passions and cravings, you have too low a view. And still, the Bible says if you have a prudish view, and you say sex is soiled, you’re not respecting the goodness of sex. Both are too low.
For Jesus, His view is utterly sacred, protective, hearty, and beautiful.
If that’s not poignant, here’s some 16th century humor for you. Listen to Luther’s words:
“We should not make the bowstring of Jesus’ teaching too taut here. As if anyone who is merely tempted to look at another with lust is eternally damned. I cannot keep a bird from flying over my head, but I can certainly keep it from making a nest in my hair or from biting off my nose.”
But, once more, what’s LUST got to do with it? Yes, this is counterintuitive and countercultural.
Stay with me for a few more lines, look at why Jesus gets so ticked off about this.
It’s because it’s an indicator of what we think human beings exist for. Whether we say this or not, other human beings are to play a role in me maximizing my pleasure and minimizing pain. It’s a degradation of their humanity. And, as you play that movie in your head, it dehumanizes that other person and you.
The stare and the choice you make in your mind, is a violation of the greatest ethic of the kingdom. Because love elevates others, it protects, and honors them and they’re well-being above my own. And it tweaks Jesus out. Why?
Because this violation of the greatest ethic of the Kingdom love is twisted by lust. Love, in the poem of 1 Cor, the first thing it is described as is patience. Lust can’t wait. Love is in for the long hall. Lust is in for the short-term, always. Love is selfless. I will the good of another no matter the sacrifice for me. Lust is selfish. It’s narcissism in a sexual encounter.
That’s why physician of the soul, Dallas Willard uses this translation:
Anyone who looks “upon a woman for the purpose of lusting for her – using her visual presence as a means of savoring the fantasied act.”
So, what is Jesus advocating in His teaching and His vision of reality? He’s advocating that unless you and I contend with mysterious, awesome, and unique part of our personhood, it is so untamable that if we don’t respect it’s going to spread decay and destruction in your life. It is going to break apart.
How do we heal it? Jesus uses the eye and the hand imagery. Speaking hyperbolically, He is highlighting the significance of both the cognition and behavioral aspects of our formation. Caution, if we only focus on the behavioral and not on how/what we think on, we will fail. Conversely, if we work on the cognitive, but don’t take ourselves out of the behavioral environments we will fail too.
What’s LUST got to do with it? For Jesus, it’s life-altering.
Let’s find our rest and inner renovation in Jesus’ vision of what it means to be human, identify both the cognitive and behavioral practice, and entrust ourselves to His love. Amen.
While growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, it wasn’t until the start of my senior year did I start to wonder if Jesus was worth considering. For me, it took the intellectual, communal, and personal components to come together to say – yes – to Him. I like to say He captured the restlessness of my soul and like a guitar restrung my heart with the cords of eternity and it hasn’t gone back since.
Shortly after coming to know Jesus as my greatest hope and reality, my father died. Since then, I’ve taken great comfort in Corrie Ten Boom’s words, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”
Then, not long after that, a family member came out to me. For the first time this dimension of life – spirituality and sexuality – wasn’t an abstract concept, this was and is a person. After attending to them with grace and truth, an odd phenomenon kept happening to me, or has it been for something? Individuals would continually trust me with their questions, wounds, and curiosities about their sexuality. At this point, it’s climbed to 15+. From there, I’ve invested the better part of eight years being engaged with individuals and immersed in the dizzying array of literature on these areas of our personhood.
I’ve found Elizabeth Elliot’s words to have great bearing on our cultural moment: “Faith doesn’t eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” Two prayers that have grounded and guided my life are: “I long to have faith and obedience like those I see in the Scriptures, and I long to preach the gospel to the nations.”
Those are my life’s aims. Among my love of books, reflection, and nurturing meaningful relationships, I enjoy good coffee, jazz music, golf, snowboarding, the movies, pizza (pepperoni), cooking, the mountains, and the beach as well as traveling.
I hold an MDiv from Denver Seminary, and I hope to gain more clarity on pursuing a PhD in the coming years.
I’m humbled and honored to join the WGA staff and contribute to the on-going space they are curating for every person, every story, and every beautiful and broken aspect of our human experience.
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