Lust is the wrong use of that which rightly used is love. It is important that we do not develop negative attitudes on sex because of our battle with lust.
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The papers recently revealed that many of the sex offenders in our culture are not strange freakish people, but respectable professionals. They are people like teachers, pastors, doctors, and policemen. You can count on it, they are also people who repressed their lust, they refuse to admit the reality of it in their lives. Had they been honest about their lust they may have been able to prevent its dangers.
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The same thing has happened all through history. Many Christians leaders of the early Catholic Church did not want to admit that Mary had sex like any normal married woman, and so they developed the doctrine of her perpetual virginity. The other children in the home were cousins and not hers they said. If artificial insemination would have existed then, the church probably would have made it a sin not to have babies that way. They could thereby eliminate sex even for marriage.
This suppression of sex, and glorification of the non-sexual priest and nun led to lust overflowing its banks in a flood of immorality. The hypocrisy of pretending to be non-sexual beings has never been an effective weapon against lust. The bleeding Pharisees were called that because they frequently ran into walls and fell down injuring themselves, because they tried to avoid looking at women.
This only made them more lust conscious then their non-bleeding brothers.
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If we go back to the Puritan leaders who burned so many witches at the stake, we see that it was a time of sexual suppression. People were pretending sex did not exist. They put cloth over the bare legs of the tables even, and a book written by a woman was not permitted to be set along side a book written by a man.
Witch burning became a popular pastime, for the respectable leaders of that society. It was because the witches had to be examined nude, and then they were burned at the stake nude. This was a motivation to find more and more witches to examine. Their refusal to deal with their lust honestly produced very dishonest and cruel expressions of it.
Women are just as degraded when sex is suppressed as when it is too openly expressed. Balance is the only way to wisdom.
What is lust? It is a good thing gone to an extreme. The word for lust is epithumeo. It is a word used for all kinds of strong desire both good and bad. Desire is not evil in itself. It is a normal part of life. Lust is a desire to satisfy the sex drive outside of the boundaries that God has set. He set boundaries, not because He is a killjoy, and does not want men to enjoy His gift, but because limitations is what gives value to His gift.
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Sex without boundaries is like a river without boundaries. It is no longer a beautiful and beneficial gift of nature, but it is a beastly judgment of nature that floods and destroys. We all have cars and other things with engines that warn us about overfill. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and that is what lust is. It is too much of a good thing. Lust is to sex what gluttony is to the enjoyment of food.
It is the sex drive trying to go beyond its rightful limits, and when it does it destroys rather than build.
Love is willing to be limited, and become exclusive, and make a commitment for better or worse. Lust wants no part of confinement, and it says for better only, and when the pleasure fades it moves on. The self is all that matters in lust. The other is only an object to be used. Lust oriented sex is strictly a me me me affair, and not an us experience. It is not true that everything you most enjoy in life is a sin. It is the excess of what you enjoy that is sin.
Eating is no sin; sex is no sin, and anger is no sin. It is the excess of these that become sin. Few will argue about the lure of lust, and its power in our lives, but many question the cure, for it sounds like such bitter medicine. Jesus takes a very radical approach to solving the problem of lust. The fact that you seldom see a one eyed, one handed man is evidence that the solution is nowhere nearly as wide spread as the problem.
Only a few in history have considered that Jesus meant for us to literally gouge out our right eye and cut off our right hand. If you took it literally, the whole world would become a center for the handicapped. Normal people with both eyes and both hands would become freaks that we could only see in side shows. The strongest Bible literalists do not take this solution literally, because it is obvious self-mutilation.
This would not solve the problem at all. The whole point of Jesus is that sin is an inner problem, and so an external solution would not touch it anymore than cleaning the outside of the cup would make the inside clean. A literal obedience to Christ here would still leave you with a left eye, left handed man, and I have never read any study that even hinted that lefty's are not as lusty. Origen, the great church father, realized the cutting off of a hand and gouging out of an eye was of no real value, and so he solved his lust problem by castration.
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He remained a great preacher and theologian, but his solution was not acceptable, and it was condemned by the church as out of the will of God. As universal as lust is the universal agreement is that Jesus does not want us to fight lust by literal self-surgery. But because we are not to take Jesus literally, does not mean we are not to take Him seriously. Jesus is using radical language to get our attention focused on the importance of being very serious with this matter of lust. How do we deal with it?
The answer of Jesus in these radical words is in essence-prevent it. Not the lust, for that is inevitable, but the consequences of lust can be prevented. It parallels the issue of anger and murder. You can't avoid anger, for it is part of life, but you can control it and prevent it from destroying yourself, and your relationships to others. So it is with lust. You can't avoid lust, but you can prevent it from hurting your life, and the life of others.
Luther said, "You can't stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair. We have a choice, and we are to choose to control those things which cause lust to lead us into dangerous actions. Whatever causes you to sin is the culprit you focus on, and you prevent that cause from having its effects. You don't let life just happen to you.
You take control and chose what life is going to be. If the eye gate is the gate that leads you to lose control, you have the responsibility to cut off that channel of temptation. You will not be relieved of that responsibility just because the world is full of pornography, and sensual TV and movies. You have a choice, and you are accountable for your choices. If you choose to open that gate and let lust lead you into sin, you were just like the stubborn man in the previous paragraph, and like him you will have to pay the bitter price for your stubborn rejection of Christ's advice.
The same principle applies to the touch gate.
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If your lust is stimulated by touch to the point of losing control, and yet you still touch members of the opposite sex in ways that promote it, you are deliberately toying with the fire that can consume you. Jesus says to cut it out. Cut off any activity that opens up the possibility of your lust to go out of control and do its deadly damage. Seeing and touching are the two most common ways that people are led into acts of immorality, and that is why Jesus focuses on the eye and the hand. People vary as to their sensitivity in these areas. There are Christian men who can go into houses of prostitution and witness to the women.
This is rare, but the point is, some can do dangerous things without losing control.
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This does not mean it is an activity that most can be involved in. Each person must know what their limitations are when it comes to lust. I am not responsible for you, nor you for me. I must know where I face risk, and make choices that cut off those things which lead me to lose of control.
If a man gets turned on by taking his secretary out to lunch, he has a responsibility to cut it out. If the secretary gets turned on by it, she is to cut it out.
The point is, everybody knows when lust is being stirred up, and at that point one is responsible to sacrifice the lesser for the preservation of the greater. That is the principle in Jesus' solution. You lose an eye or a hand to save the whole body. That is the principle behind surgery, and behind the prevention of sin.