The Root of the Problem
A few months ago, an old friend (who is a Christian, husband, and father) of mine from college posted a very sexually explicit picture on social media. It didn’t contain nudity, but it was clearly designed to get the blood flowing. I sent him a message asking him to remove the picture, saying that it was not glorifying to God, and it might cause others brothers to stumble. I appealed to our brotherhood in Christ, and I expected an apology and a quick removal of the picture.
His answer really shocked me. He replied that we should not be ashamed to use extra-marital images to enhance our marriages and provide a little “motivation” in the bedroom. In other words, we should have no problem with looking at something hot as a “warm-up” for the marriage bed. He continued that lusting did not mean looking and getting turned on, as long as we weren’t envisioning sleeping with that person.
I’ve been struggling with this periodically since that message. This person was a strong (I thought) Christian brother saying these things, and he was the last person I would have expected to justify looking at other women.
I’m struggling with this because of his definition of lust, and what it would mean if he is Biblically correct. I’ve always thought of lusting as sinfully desiring something that doesn’t belong to us. It doesn’t have to be exclusively associated with sexual desire, but it is generally used in the Scriptures with sexuality in mind.
If my definition of lust means that it is sinful to look at a forbidden woman with the goal of gaining pleasure from it, then surely his posted image, along with his way of enhancing his marriage, is wrong.
I’m also struggling with this because many times, as I am tempted to look at another woman, I see his message, and I start trying to justify my sinful desires. My sinful man likes (lusts after?) trying to find excuses allowing me to sin.
I’m sure other men struggle with something similar, and so for my own well-being, and yours, I want to get to the root of the issue, and look at the Biblical definition of lust. Many hundreds or thousands of books have, I’m sure, been written on this subject, but I’d like to take my own look at the Scriptures to find out what they really say.
Is it true that, as long as I’m not picturing myself having sex with a woman, I can look at them all I want? Does the Biblical idea of lust only go that far?
Or is it the all-encompassing sinful desire that I’ve always believed it to be? Christ says in His beatitudes in Matthew 5: 27-28 “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 lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It would seem that Christ’s saying could be taken two ways, according to our definition of lust.
I think my friend and I would agree that Christ says that adultery is not limited to physical sexual contact, but that it is possible to commit actual adultery in your heart. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
If I look at a woman to gain a pleasure that is not rightfully mine to gain, I believe I am lusting after her. My friend would say that looking and lusting (according to Christ) would only involve thoughts of actually consummating a sexual act. Looking is no problem as long as we are just appreciating and gaining pleasure from the visual beauty of the woman’s body.
You can see the problem, and the need for a concrete answer.
My goal will be to investigate and see how the Scriptures actually define lust. It seems that there are an infinite number of ways to justify our sinfulness, and I hope to combat this not only for your own edification (and maybe that of my friend), but for my own conscience as well.