A few weeks ago I preached on lust from the sermon on the mount. One point I made was that any sexual activity outside the marriage covenant is ultimately taking without fully giving. In pre-marital or extra-marital sex, we are in essence taking physically without giving of our whole selves, refusing to covenantally bind ourselves to each other. Lust is the fullest expression of taking without giving, as you are only taking and not giving any of yourself: physically, emotionally, spiritually. Much of this I borrowed from Tim Keller’s sermon on the same passage.
While in the 1980’s, Foreigner posed a great thought, “I want to know what love is,” I think an appropriate thought today would be, “I want to know what lust is…..” And should you follow through with the same request of that song (“I want you to show me…”), I will do my best to show you and point you to the only one who can do something about it.
Since lust is basically a form of stealing (that’s why I think Jesus says to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin in reference to lust). Gary Yagel describes men to a tee. “Men want the physical pleasure of sex without the hard emotional work of intimacy.” The same could probably be said of women, particularly with the popularity of a Magic Mike.
The remedy for lust, which is taking without giving, is to come to the One who truly gives without taking. While Jesus elevates the sexual ethic to a level where no one can attain, he ironically hangs around with sexually broken people. Often. Prostitutes hang out with someone who condemns even lust as a form of adultery?
The beauty of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount lies in the fact that he exposes the depth of a law which we could never uphold, only to point us to Him who fulfilled all parts of the Law. The sexually broken, who have been all about take, take, take, and thus have seen that they have really been taken, taken, taken, regularly come to the one who gives, gives, gives.
Does it not amaze you that the sexually broken do not run from Jesus but rather flock to him, as a true sophomore Lloyd Christmas once said, “like the Salmon of Capistrano?” This seeming paradox produces worship and obviously attracted people to him. Russ Douthat in his Bad Religion writes:
He’s a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine….he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts…
They didn’t feel judged but rather loved by him. And that loving presence then led to repentance. Does that not make you think? And worship? And repent?
One cannot say, “Once such folks repented, then they felt welcomed by him.” Well such an example clearly happens in Luke 7:36-50. But several adulterous ladies didn’t repent before they met him as seen in the Samaritan woman in John 4, or the woman caught in adultery in John 8. In fact most of the time, it is only after folks encounter the presence of Jesus, that they seek forgiveness and desire any change. Sometimes that change happens immediately while for others (Nicodemus, Jesus’ brother James) it takes some time.
The same thing should be true today. The only way anyone has any hope of forgiveness or even desire to abandon certain lifestyles is if Jesus comes to them FIRST. So we should not expect any healing in this area to happen unless they feel un-judged when spending time with Jesus’ people.
It’s kind of like that old adage (which technically true but kind of inaccurate) “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” Huh….? Well law without gospel kills and when people wield the law before the gospel, it can have the same relational effect.
Grace is what folks need to in order to (very imperfectly I might add) begin slowly following the law which leads us to freedom. The law points us to life not death, but when folks don’t see Jesus the fulfiller of the Law, there is no motivation to repent.
If Jesus held such a high sexual ethic, and the women in his presence felt loved, then that should let remind evangelical Christians now that we don’t need to lower the sexual ethic. Jesus’ followers can hold a high sexual ethic without the world always feeling we are judging them. He did it, why can’t we?
Provided our high sexual ethic makes us think even higher of Jesus than our own blemished record (remember lust?), we do have something that much of the world does not know: One who gives without taking. When folks know the One who gives without taking, that affects all of their lives, including, but especially our sexuality. We then become people who give to whole selves to our spouses instead of images of the “perfect” guy or gal. That is true sexual healing.