Yesterday we took a look at how Jesus redefines the severity of the anger problem, tying it to the heart behind hatred and murder. After his discourse on anger, Jesus moves to the topic of lust with an equally devastating redefinition.
27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:27-28).
For obvious reasons, this is devastating to those who, while they haven’t acted on their desires, have entertained thoughts and fantasies. But why? Doesn’t it mean something that we control our impulses to act, and relegate lust to feelings and thoughts? Perhaps, but again, let’s not assume that Jesus is only saying this in order to make us see how bad we are and drive us to the cross and our need for a savior. Let’s assume that he wants us to have total freedom in this area.
Why does it matter to God what we do with our minds and hearts? The answer is that God doesn’t just care what we look like. He cares about who we are. He made us in his image to show the world what he is like, especially those of us who he has saved and filled with his Holy Spirit. To entertain lustful thoughts, we must forget all that. We must be like animals who don’t think, just move by instinct. We must suspend our God-given abilities to step back and consider what is best. Not what is easy, fun, or what would satisfy our momentary craving, but what is best. Is it good for us to forsake in our minds God’s desire for us to be pure? Should we rebel against God by ignoring his instruction on sexual purity?
God created sex, and he designed the idea of romantic relationships. How happy Adam must have been when God woke him up and presented him with the wife that he created from Adam’s own body. “This is now flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone” (Gen 2:23). I can’t even imagine the joy of discovery that ensued. This is God’s desire for all of us unless he specifically calls us to singleness (Mt 19:12). It is a gift, a mind blowing gift. There is no reason whatsoever to pervert that gift by using it in a lesser, cheaper way than how he intended it. Pornography is cheap. It does damage to us in so many ways, not to mention exploiting the brokenness of some young woman who doesn’t know God and has sold herself cheap. Prostitution is even worse. But even just plain old fashioned premarital sex doesn’t come close to the good design God has for love and relationship in a marriage. It is a pathway to destruction of a relationship, to mistrust, to conflict. If you get married to the person you are crossing those lines with, there will be years of pain and mistrust to overcome together. Nothing is impossible with God, but it is usually very difficult to overcome.
Jesus doubles down on this point and says that to look “at a woman with lustful intent” is to already commit adultery with her. The same goes for women looking at men with lustful intent. When you do that, man or woman, what does that say about the position of your heart? What does that say about the belief that God is in your mind and sees what you see, hears what you think, and knows what you are? If you can know Jesus’s words and ignore them, then I have to assume there is a good chance you don’t actually believe any of it. God is watching. Always. To fear God is to believe that is true. To love God is to care what he thinks and love to please him. But there is more to it than the fact that perversion dishonors the God who watches.
Jesus is showing us the way to freedom.
Do you want sexual freedom in the area of your actions? Then get sexual freedom in the area of your thoughts. The good news is not that God doesn’t want you to think about those things, perverting your spirit and dishonoring his, but that God has actually set you free from the compulsion to do those things, to think those things. Furthermore, he has something much, much better for you if you are married, especially if both of you are believers. Do it right, and learn this.
But maybe you aren’t married. Maybe you have no spiritually viable outlets for sexuality. Neither did Jesus. He was a single guy. Do you think he kept himself in check by repression? I don’t think so. I think Jesus understood reality well enough to know that even sex that is within the confines of holy matrimony is not the end all be all of abundant life. He knew that the love of a woman is not the greatest love of all; it is not the key to happiness and joy that our current culture believes that it is. This is one of Satan’s greatest lies. From what the Bible says, there will be no sex in heaven. No marriage (Mt 22:30). So, that tells me that what there is in terms of love and fulfillment is much, much greater. Jesus would have us see that now, take sex off of its current pedestal and start living. Romantic love pales in comparison to agape the love of the Father, the love for God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and the love for our neighbor as our self. It is the love that we must subordinate even the romantic love of our spouses to, if we are to have a godly, and healthy, even a romantically fulfilling marriage.
If all this sounds difficult and sacrificial, remember that Jesus is talking about freedom. What’s not to love about freedom? He came, lived, and died to set you free from sexual sin. Believe, and go free. Let’s talk more tomorrow about the sermon on the mount and what Jesus had to say about giving, praying, and fasting in secret