Do you suffer from “felt board Christianity?” If so, it can seem like the Bible is a simplistic bunch of stories with generalized rules for life. “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” it has been called. Do you want to go deeper? At some point, I think we all do. We have to peel back the layers and dive in.
Everything Jesus is trying to teach us about the Christian life begins in the heart.
In the last post, we defined what lust is and what lust is not (see this if you don’t know what I’m talking about), so now let’s talk about how the word has been redefined and dumbed down. Large swaths of Christianity presently equate the recognition of beauty in our gender differences as wrongful lust. And because of this lowering of the bar, new concepts have been added in to compensate for the change of definition.
Sight itself has become the bogeyman.
Everywhere we look (no pun intended), it seems there are things and people to see (and I guess that means danger!). When we pop our heads up, we hear this refrain of warning: Men are visually stimulated. Heads down, men. Look away!
It’s the subject of radio programs and talk shows: Men are visually stimulated. Volumes have been written around the postulate that men are visually stimulated. I wonder how many millions and millions of dollars are changing hands based on this mantra that men are visually stimulated?
Perhaps we should follow the money. Pornographers and anti-pornographers all benefit financially by continuing to chant this mantra, but never utter this secret truth: women are visually stimulated, too. Simple biology tells us that human beings have senses. One of those is sight. Placing visual stimulation in our targets as the problem only creates a missed opportunity for success and creates a vicious, vicious cycle of shame. Relationships suffer and real problems go unsolved.
The combination of the visual stimulation mantra and the watered down definition of lust have been well crafted into a deadly recipe. The visual stimulation lie wrongly makes women responsible for the conduct of male human beings and takes volitional control completely out of the picture. Men have a responsibility to control their thoughts and their actions. Our self-control problems are not the responsibility of the the fairer sex.
This idea that men are mere predatory animals bound to their wild inhibitions and bursting at the seams with wrongful desire is childish and foolish. And I propose that pointing to visual stimulation is the wrong place to conclude a discussion about lust. Stimulation is a bogeyman because stimuli will always exist. We have applied the wrong labels to the way our bodies react. Stimulation is not sin.
The real test of a man (or a woman) is how s/he learns to respond to that stimulus.
People have tried for ages to remove sin by removing the potential for temptation. In this case, the common strategy is to consider that if men are visually stimulated, the stimuli must be removed. Except, stimulus is not the cause of wrongful lust, is it? Stimulation is only a sensation, placed by God in our very real, very flesh-and-blood bodies. This strategy will fail.
We’re alive. We feel. We see. We smell and taste. We sense. We respond because we’re alive.
Let’s make this real.Close your eyes and step outside into the breeze. [It’s ok, you can come right back.] Feel that tickle as the air move across the delicate hairs on your skin? It’s stimulating. Walk into the kitchen when someone you love is baking bread. Take in a deep whiff. Smell that? It’s stimulating. Feel the seat beneath you. Press your foot into the floor. Your sense of touch is being stimulated.
Oh, look, a person! Any person. Maybe it’s a woman. Maybe it’s a man. What are they wearing? What color are their eyes? Are they tall, short, brown, pale, thin, sturdy? Observe their facial expression and posture.
This is the Imago Dei. The Image of God. It really doesn’t matter what they look like, what they wear or what they’re doing–your vision is being stimulated by the greatest of God’s Creation: a human being.
Don’t turn away. God wants us to see–and be seen–by each other.
This is why Jesus, rather than condemning our bodies, constantly brings us back to the heart.* But that is not all He did. He gave us the KEY to overcome wrongful lusting and coveting!
The pastor I spoke of at the beginning of my last post was healed by this key: He learned to see the truth. Jesus renewed his mind–changed the way he thinks–in regard to the goodness of the body and set him free from the lies that had led him to seek out false intimacy as pain management. He is still free of pornography today, and that addiction did not shift to something else.
As we continue in this series, here are some points to ponder:
- God made our bodies, both male and female. They are good. Gen 2:25
- Modesty is an attitude, not a dress code.
- Lust comes forth from the heart and is the responsibility of the luster.
- To the pure, all things are pure. Titus 1:15
- A weaker brother does not have strong opinions; that’s how we know he’s weak.
- We are to grow the weak to maturity, not leave them to stagnation.
- Uncomfortable truth may not feel good at first, but eventually we feel its freedom.
- Truth does not equal American Culture or even Christian traditions.
- Cultures change, yet Truth remains. And it sets us free.
As I have learned to come to my senses on what lust actually means–that it is a heart-directed, neutral term–it has freed my mind to focus on people as whole individuals, rather than divide them, body and soul.
Freedom to walk in the spirit enables us to follow Christ wherever He leads.
Have you embraced this truth? Do you see people as whole, or does that idea cause fear? If so, what stops you from really seeing others, body and soul?*Yes, I realize Jesus once said tear out your eye and cut off your hand. That was metaphor, friends. metaphor. Remember, we’re going beyond the felt board. 🙂