I remember years ago seeing a cartoon in a magazine. A preschool boy and girl are walking home from school and the little boy is asking the girl, “Are you the opposite sex or am I?”To suggest that our culture is obsessed with sex to an even a greater extent that it is confused about it is a classic understatement. Bruce Jenner just recently came out as Caitlyn. The Duggar family (of reality TV fame) faces social criticism regarding reports of their oldest son’s damaging sexual behavior. As with all the capital vices, Dr. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, author of Glittering Vices: The Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, presents lust with a candid discussion of our culture’s sexual morass as well as offering the wise instruction of the early church fathers.
DeYoung suggests we have to begin at the beginning. God created human beings as sexual beings, male and female. Sexual intercourse is God’s idea and, as a well-ordered and delightful gift, is to be greatly enjoyed within the context of marriage. Our culture has reduced sexual intercourse (a phrase DeYoung likes) to just “sex”and enjoys “it” for the pleasure it offers, with almost no regard for context at all. Sex is now viewed a mere triviality or a basic instinct that rightly should be called “lust” because almost every drop of love is squeezed out.
Current views on chastity, outside and inside marriage, are woefully narrow and are the objects of scorn. “People both inside and outside the church think Christians make too big a deal of sexual sin” (161). The word from the church seems to be a resounding NO! when the topic of sex comes up.
Yet, DeYoung does not back down from the church’s obsession with sexual sin. “It’s true that Christians do seem to treat sex as if it were the culture’s main problem, and other sins as if they were less important. And that is worth complaining about. Yet we can also respond to criticism of the church by affirming that there is good reason to get upset about sexual sin”(162). First, sex is designed to bond two people together in a one-flesh union. Second, it’s an act designed to create new human beings—babies. Sex is love-giving in the relational sense and human being-making in the procreational sense: human relationships and human life. Lust has the power to damage both the love-giving and life-giving purposes of sex. The Bible celebrates the joyful love-giving (Song of Songs) and the generative life-making powers of sex.
“Lust need not be consummated in sex to be lust. Lust is a problem with the heart above your belt before it is a problem with the heat below it”(163). Lust eradicates the “interpersonal and social dimension”of sex. The oneness of sex is lost in lust. Lust is deformed sexual desire. “Lust, by contrast, pretends sex and sexual pleasure are a party for one. Lust makes sexual pleasure all about me. It is a self-gratification project”(164). Therefore lust is a vice because it does not honor the fullness and wholeness intended for the sexual union. Lust, at the core, is the excessive desire for my own sexual pleasure”(166). Our culture expects lust to deliver only what love can deliver. Thus, more sexual encounters build up and the more empty men and women feel. Physical pleasure, whether eating and drinking or sexual intercourse, cannot in themselves meet our spiritual needs.
Lurking as the dark energy, pride drives lust. We believe we are in charge of and are free to get pleasure any way that we want. “In lust, my own pleasure is my goal, and I decide where to get it, and when, and with whom. …I disown my need for God’s love or the love of others”(167-168). The porn industry explodes in production banking on the reality that what it offers will not satisfy. The lustful will always long for more and more.
One remedy for lust is not more sexual education (176). Knowledge of sexual physiology without corresponding godly values does not help. DeYoung suggests that we develop chaste character in the context of safe and vulnerable community. Lust thrives in isolation and privacy.
Guard our tongues (from coarse jokes), guard our minds (from erotic images), and guard our relationships by cultivating friendships in which godly love is expressed.