To live the life God intended we have to manage anger and sexuality, among other important psycho-relational realities. To listen to the audio teaching of these notes click on:
Adultery, Lust and Purity, Matt 5:27-30
Jesus says it’s not about adultery, but about lust and purity. He deals with murder, then adultery (6th & 7th commandments). Why? Because anger AND lust are the two basic causes of most of the pain in human relationships – the root of family disorder and community/social disintegration. Human sexuality is essentially about human relationships, how we relate, whether we love or lust. What’s the difference?
Love is healthy sexuality as in relating purely, seeking each other’s highest good. This love-passion celebrates God’s image in the ‘complementary other’, producing true intimacy that completes us as human becomings. Lust is broken sexuality as in impure relating, desiring ‘the other’ to use (& abuse) in order to meet our needs, pleasure, purpose. That is a substitute false intimacy that can never satisfy or complete us. At heart it’s an idolatry of self that disintegrates our personhood, making us less than human, more like animals driven by (corrupted) instincts. Lust enslaves and addicts us to corrupted desire.
The outward act of adultery – a sexual affair outside the covenant of marriage – begins in the heart, in our natural appetites that are corrupted by ‘covetous’ desire. “Lust” in Matt 5:28 is the word “covet” (to steal) in the Greek translation of the 10th commandment in Ex 20:17. Lusting is covetous desire, to take/steal for one’s own pleasure and purposes.
Long before we commit the physical act of adultery we have, in our sexual brokenness, cultivated lustful desire that prepares us to do it when the opportunity presents itself. So it’s not about the outward act, it’s about the inward conditioning, the intention of the mind. Jesus says if we “look to lust” – entertain thoughts and images, cultivate covetous lust to use ‘the other’ for our needs and purpose – it’s as good as doing the deed. It’s just a matter of time before we ‘act out’ by looking at pornography, flirting with the opposite (or same) sex, seeking opportunity to ‘do it’.
How do we deal with this? Jesus’ ‘new covenant’ answer is radical (29-30). Those in the Kingdom of Heaven (KOH) live a different kind of life. We are convicted and enabled by God’s indwelling Spirit to cut lust off at its roots, reconditioning the heart for relating in pure love (healthy sexuality). Jesus uses deliberate exaggeration: “if your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
WOW! Does he mean that literally? NO! You cannot stop lust by castrating yourself – if you’re a man – as church father Origen (185-254) found out. It’s a heart/mind issue, not a physical problem! Jesus’ point is to deal ruthlessly with the first sign of lust before it develops and then drives you. Otherwise you rot and decay from within, becoming useless to God and people, and consequently “thrown into (the tormenting fires of) hell”. Jesus repeats this phrase twice! A serious warning! This can mean being handed over to the internal fires of lust that torment us, as well as the fearful ultimate torment of separation from God.
Jesus is echoing Prov 6:25 & Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a woman…” This is not sexual ‘repression’ as some suggest. Such old so-called Christian teaching, as in ‘sex is dirty’, ‘sexual feelings are sinful’, etc, results in untruth, guilt, shame, psycho-sexual dualism and dysfunction (we separate our sexuality from our spirituality). We must not suppress normal sexual awareness and desire, and our admiration of and attraction to beauty. We need a good theology of healthy sexuality.
Jesus is teaching sexual character as in purity of the heart and imagination, by disciplining lust before it becomes fantasy and arousal. When pushed down into the darkness of guilt, into the silence of shame, sexual feelings are demonized. We must channel sexual feelings in a healthy way by bringing them into the light of God’s presence. When we acknowledge what we’re seeing, feeling and thinking, with God, we celebrate the mystery of beauty, attraction and longing. Then sexual feelings are redeemed and transformed (see Paul’s ‘positive disciplines’ in this regard, Phil 4:8). They can become the fuel or passion of true loving in relationships, the warm healing power of godly love in every relational exchange. This builds healthy community and good society.