Seven Modern Maladies and God's Solutions (5 of 7)
#5 = Lust/True Love
Lust (impurity) violates God’s command to honor Him with our body. True Love keeps His commands.
Anyone OVER 50 years old needs no introduction to
“Ginger Grant” (the “movie star”), a character on the “Gilligan’s Island” TV series.
The actress who portrayed Ginger on the show was Tina Louise, an actress who had an impressive acting resume on stage and screen. In fact, her acting career started at age two when she appeared in an ad for her father’s candy business! In 1958 the National Arts Council named her the Most Beautiful Redhead. (What has that got to do with ART?) She and cast mate Dawn Wells are the only two survivors of Gilligan’s Island.
Ms. Louise won the role after Jayne Mansfield turned it down. She became increasingly unhappy with the role, claiming it typecast her and ultimately ruined her career. Her dislike of the character might be implied in the fact that she turned down every chance to reprise the role in subsequent Gilligan’s Island movies.
On the other hand, there aren’t many roles that come along that make an actor a “pop culture icon.” In fact, in 2005, a TVLand special program ranked Tina Louise as second only to Heather Locklear as TV’s all-time sex symbols.
Because the character of Ginger was written to be beautiful and glamorous, it is an obvious choice to link the character with the vice of LUST. Additionally, Tina Louise traded on her good looks to encourage LUST, appearing twice in “Playboy” magazine. This means both Ginger and Tina are good choices as symbols of the modern malady of LUST.
1. The vicious vice of IMPURITY (Matthew 5:27-30).
What are the sins of impurity, including lust? First of all, sexual impurity violates God’s will. God’s will in sexuality simply expressed: a husband and wife may enjoy sexuality together. In any other relationship, sex is “adultery;” the Bible term that includes all the other variations on sexuality you can name.
In a culture drowning in sexual sin, we especially need to maintain a healthy balance on this subject. Adultery is only one sin of many. In the mind of God, it is no better or worse than any other.
Adultery is condemned in the Seventh Commandment: in Exodus 20:14 we read, YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. In the tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17) a man is not co covet your neighbor’s wife. The similarity of these prohibitions lead to the misconception that ADULTERY was a form of thievery, reflecting an attitude toward women that they are the property of a husband or father. We need to make a distinction between the two: the sin of coveting involves property, not people. Though it may feel similar, the sin of lust involve people, not property.
Jesus broadened the definition of adultery to include lust. In Matthew 5:27 He compared the Old Covenant with the New Covenant He was making, introducing the topic with “YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID.” Under the old definition, adultery was misidentified as being a version of theft, motivated by covetousness. This combination of the 7th & 10 Commandments.
This was wrong in two other ways: it placed the responsibility for the sin on the woman but gave the authority to resolve it to the man. It put a wife on the level of other property.
As with all kinds of sin, sexual impurity has deadly consequences. In Jesus’ time, they understood it as a physical act of unfaithfulness, not as an attitude of unfaithfulness. However, in v. 28 Jesus supplied a new, larger, and more challenging definition.
His new and better way was to understand adultery as being sinful as a physical act AND as an emotional/mental act as well. Jesus condemned LUST as marking a person as being just as guilty of adultery as persons physically committing it: “ANYONE WHO LOOKS AT A WOMAN LUSTFULLY HAS ALREADY COMMITTED ADULTERY WITH HER IN HIS HEART.”
This word LUST is to be understood as a prolonged look while mentally considering a sexual act. In the Greek, there is more to LUST than meets the eye. (Pun fully intended!!) The word LUST included a consideration of the physical act, even planning how to do it.
What’s true of ADULTERY is also true of other sins. An act is sinful because it takes a sinful thought and/or perpetuates it in an evil act. The process is explained in JMS 1:13-18. Let me be clear about what Jesus taught; ADULTERY is just as much a lustful look and/or thought as it is a physical act.
Morally speaking, we are not responsible when temptations come to us spontaneously. We are responsible for tempting ourselves, but we are in all cases responsible for our reaction to temptation. If we keep looking at it, keep thinking about it, or dwell on it, we are responsible for turning temptation into sin. If we avert our eyes, dismiss it from our thoughts, pray, and in any other way resist the devil, we are not guilty of sin. We need to resolve, as Job did, to look away from temptation and thereby avoid sin. In Job 31:1 it is written; “I MADE A COVENANT WITH MY EYES NOT TO LOOK LUSTFULLY AT A YOUNG WOMAN.” This is an example of a simple and practical means to minimize the frequency and depth of temptations. As ever, Jesus’ standard is higher; it is not enough just to refrain from the physical act, but one must also avoid the heart-attitude to avoid being guilty of adultery.
Avoiding the temptation and repenting of it is the more important thing. One measure of the deadly consequences of sin is the lengths to which one is willing to go to prevent being guilty. In vs. 29-30, Jesus sets a high value on avoiding adultery. The seriousness of a crime is determined by the seriousness of its punishment.
I don’t know about you, but I value my RIGHT EYE and my RIGHT HAND pretty highly. Jesus said these are worthless compared to life after death. In this teaching, Jesus is on the same page as Jewish rabbis of the time, who taught:
“The eyes and the hand are the two brokers of sin.”
“Woe to him who goes after his eyes, for they are adulterous.”
Some people think Jesus is exaggerating here a bit or using metaphoric language. It doesn’t make sense to them that Jesus would really advocate self-mutilation as an alternative to self-control.
I disagree. I believe He was being literal. In this teaching, Jesus puts a high value on the deadliness of sin and on the worth of eternal life with God. When you think about it, what He said is true: it’d be better to give these body parts up than lose one’s entire self to hell and eternal death. Two counterpoints: One, sin is serious. It is deadly. With this sin and with others, we’ve got to stop winking and making excuses.
Two, heaven is so wonderful, it’s worth everything in this world. There is nothing we can give up to earn salvation, but if there was anything of this world that we might have to give up to obtain eternal life the trade would be a no-brainer. Jesus made this point again in 16:26; “WHAT GOOD WILL IT BE FOR A MAN IF HE GAINS THE WHOLE WORLD, YET FORFEITS HIS SOUL?” As we read in verse 29: it is far better to sacrifice earthly things than lose heavenly blessings.
ADULTERY, like all other kinds of sin, often has consequences in this life. There are consequences to every decision we make; some of them occur naturally and others are chosen (”structured”) for us by God and/or others. In the case of ADULTERY, the natural consequences can include diseases and relationships broken by feelings of betrayal. The structured consequences are intended to end the sin, enable repentance, and restore relationships by means of forgiveness.
A fourth warning about sexual sin is that it is a perversion of true love. Based on Jesus’ teaching, any part of love we’ve promised to our spouse that is given to another is ADULTERY. A look, a thought, a flirtation - anything that is outside the blessing of marriage can be ADULTERY without any kind of physical contact involved.
The devil can’t use the things of God to tempt us, so he uses copies. Like a reflection in a broken mirror, these are false and distorted versions of the truth. In this case, LUST is a distorted version of LOVE. A person guilty of LUST is entirely wrapped up in themselves. A person in LOVE is wrapped up in their beloved. The difference is obvious.
A fifth reason to understand IMPURITY as deadly is that it defies God’s commands to use our body to glorify God; ADULTERY is doing the opposite.
A couple examples summarize this command to use our physical selves to point others to God. In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 we read, FLEE FROM SEXUAL IMMORALITY. ALL OTHER SINS A MAN COMMITS ARE OUTSIDE HIS BODY, BUT HE WHO SINS SEXUALLY SINS AGAINST HIS OWN BODY. DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHO IS IN YOU, WHOM YOU HAVE RECEIVED FROM GOD? YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN; YOU WERE BOUGHT AT A PRICE. THEREFORE HONOR GOD WITH YOUR BODY. Romans 12:1 teaches, THEREFORE, I URGE YOU, BROTHERS, IN VIEW OF GOD’S MERCY, TO OFFER YOUR BODIES AS LIVING SACRIFICES, HOLY AND PLEASING TO GOD - WHICH IS YOUR SPIRITUAL WORSHIP.
2. The vital virtue of TRUE LOVE (John 15:9-17).
What makes love “true?” True love has its origin in God’s love. In John 15: 9+10, Jesus urged His disciples to REMAIN in His LOVE. In verses 12+17, He made it a command; we are to love one another as He loved us. Merrill Tenney’s comment on this verse is instructive: “Unity instead of rivalry, trust instead of suspicion, obedience instead of self-assertion must rule the disciples’ common labors.”
In verse eleven we find that true love for God is revealed in obedience. Love is being wrapped up in God, not self.
Obedience is putting God’s will ahead of my own.
Obedience is surrendering my freedom to do evil in return for the true freedom to do good.
Obedience is leaving slavery to sin to call God our true Master.
Obedience is the source of COMPLETE JOY in our lives.
True love for others is revealed in the sacrifices we make in order to witness to them about Jesus and serve them in His name (v. 13). Love shows preference for the beloved.
Verses 14-16 warn that the world does not know or practice TRUE LOVE. Our culture settles for the lesser goals of “tolerance” and satisfaction. Why settle for mere tolerance when love is a deeper commitment? Why make self-satisfaction our goal when satisfying the will of God gives COMPLETE JOY? These verses call us to the deepest kind of love as our first love.
Since sexuality is limited to the husband-wife relationship, we benefit by asking, what are God’s purposes in marriage? Why did He create it?
One divine purpose for marriage is the foundation of families, which are the building-blocks of civilization. From the beginning of the Bible and throughout its pages, God instituted marriage as the fundamental human relationship, the source of life and the organizational principle.
Another divine purpose is that marriage be a source of blessing to husband and wife. Because they are one in Christ, they are to bless all around them. When He made the world, God declared all of it good, except for one thing: the man’s being alone. God completed Adam’s manhood by complementing it with Eve’s womanhood. And so it has always been that the two become a fuller version of the one. The other blessings of marriage include:
Physical pleasure in sexual ways, but in all the other worldly senses as well.
Emotional pleasure; companion-ship is supposed to be part of marital relations. Whenever people are in right relationship with one another, COMPLETE JOY is to be the result.
Spiritual maturity is the highest expression of love. The family founded on husband and wife is supposed to be a relation-ship of mutual support and growth in grace.
A third divine purpose in marriage is to create a place to learn about true love and to train others (children especially) in true love. God’s word reveals that the ideal in God’s institution of marriage is that the two become ONE FLESH (Gensis 2:24). This is where families begin: at marriage, not at childbirth. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 makes it clear that the family is, in God’s plan, the primary means of passing the faith along from one generation to the next. This is the priority in family life, training children in godliness.
The primary relationship in families is that of husband and wife, NEVER parent and child. When we make marriage our priority, family life improves on its own. It is the child-centered parenting of the last 2-3 generations that has created so many disastrous things in our culture.
Fourth and finally, God wants marriage to be a foretaste of heaven and a symbol of the relationship between God and His people. Isaiah 54:5; 62:5; Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19-20; Revelation 19:7 are samples of the scriptures that utilize the metaphor of God as the Groom and His people as His bride.
Its a good metaphor: marriage is an institution created by God, a relationship that is created by entering into a covenant. So is God’s relationship with His people. Marriage is a voluntary covenant where two parties motivated by love join together. Marriage is, ideally, the relationship we know as being the deepest, most joyous celebration of love.
Anyone UNDER 50 needs no introduction to
“Tinder,” a photo sharing app used as a dating service. On the surface, Tinder is an app used for sharing pictures. Users post pictures and look at other posts by swiping a finger across their phone screen to move from one picture to another. Though it is not billed as a dating service, Tinder is nonetheless used to search for possible dates and initiate conversations.
Tinder has been selected as a symbol of LUST because the pictures posted are sometimes lewd and because with nothing more than pictures to see, people are deciding with whom they want to hook up for casual sex or pursue lasting relationships on the basis of what they see. People will swipe from picture to picture until they find someone visually appealing and then initiate a conversation with that person. In this way, Tinder is the EPITOME of LUST!
To understand the scope of Tinder and other sites like it, I offer two bits of data. The first, from Wikipedia; as of 2015, there are 1.6 billion Tinder users. “More than 8 billion matches have been made since Tinder launched in 2012.” The second, from a website called “The Bustle,” citing a study by a marketing service called “Simple Texting,” 13.6% of dating app users have made matches that result in engagement or marriage. The third, from the Wikipedia again; the biggest group of users of Tinder are in the 16-24 years old range.
Tinder enables people to make life-changing decisions on the basis of a single picture. In this way, it works very much like LUST; on just one look. To use this app is to treat love like a slot machine. Gambling with your life is even more foolish than gambling with your money.