The tears spilling onto her keyboard – I could almost see them.
I could hear the anguish in the words she typed, backspaced, and re-typed.
I could feel her heart, aching and burdened, reaching out to me – the faceless Internet name – just to have someone to talk to. Someone who might understand.
“I feel like I’m sinking deeper in sin and further and further from God. So many women disguise their sexual sins because it is so taboo and “unacceptable” for Christian women to be sexual beings. So many women have secret sins because of these expectations… So please. Do you have any advice? Thank you so much for your time.”
I received that email a long time ago now, but she – the writer – has been housed in the back of my mind since that day. I know she isn’t the only one who feels this way. I know there are many more girls out there – good, Christian, by-the-book young women – who have the same questions she was asking. But they don’t dare ask.
There is a stigma when it comes to lust, as applies to the life of a Christian woman.
“Men struggle with lust.” We nod and accept, pointing to verses to help our husbands, sons, and boyfriends. We construct standards and preach against pornography, all of which are good, much-needed endeavors. But then there are the women: watching, as it were, from the sidelines of this battle against lust, wondering where to get help, who to talk to, and altogether too afraid to admit that lust is our problem, too.
I don’t think this is intentional; I think simply because men are visual beings, sexual lust is an understood temptation for them; whereas women, the pigeon-holed emotional beings, are looked on as pseudo-men if they admit they have a lust issue. But lust is lust. Sin is sin. It simply looks different in the lives of women versus the lives of men.
Writing this post (the first of series) is hard for me to do because it requires dangerous transparency. Many of my own friends and family read this blog. I’ve prayed and considered this series for months, hesitated to research and write it, talked about it with Mr. M, and finally decided that this message is one all my readers must hear.
What is Lust?
The Oxford English Dictionary contains a long list of definitions for lust, including but not limited to:
- Pleasure, delight
- Desire, appetite, relish, inclination
- In a biblical sense: sensuous appetite, leading to sin
- Sexual appetite or desire, leading to intense moral reprobation
- Libidinous desire
- Degrading animal passion
- Lawless and passionate desire of or for some object
Lust, by definition, can apply to any object of such unbridled desire, but in this context we are talking about sexual lust. In Scripture, we see lust mentioned periodically, but it is more widely recognized by its fruits: sexual immorality, adultery, and the carnal mind.
Is Lust wrong?
I am writing you as a Christian woman writing to other Christian women. Even in the church, you will hear teachers exclaiming over our ‘God-given freedom’ to celebrate our ‘God-given sexuality’ by indulging in the periphery of lust. This requires us to go to God’s Word and see if He indicates that lust is, in His view, a sin.
- The lust of the flesh and of the eyes belongs to the world (1 John 2:16), and we are NOT of the world (John 15:19).
- Lust limits our ability to fight against sin and pollutes our hearts (2 Tim. 2:4, 22); this should concern us, since ONLY the pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8).
- Lust wages war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11).
- Lustful minds conform us to the world (Romans 12:2).
If we are to fulfill God’s will, which is for us to be holy (1 Thess. 4:3-8), the definition and fruits of lust cannot be found in our lives. Therefore, lust is a sin. Lust is wrong.
Why is Lust wrong?
- Lust objectifies. See the definitions from the OED. Lust of any kind is a focused and almost obsessive attention on attaining something. It is not patient or willing to give up its rights. A lustful mind is more focused on its desire than on the consequences of that desire; it is irrational: both sensual and insensitive.
- Lust satisfies itself first. Lust is focused on satisfying a want that it perceives as a need. The desire becomes so strong, a lustful mind sees what was once a preference as an inalienable right. If it cannot receive what it wants, it might just take it by force.
- Lust twists God’s plan. Lust takes God’s plan for sex out of context. God’s context for sex is marriage because sex inside of marriage (when the man and woman love God and each other) is safe. Lust focuses on the feelings of sex without the meaning of sex that God designed.
- Lust usurps God’s authority. Choosing to lust after someone, and acting on it (we will get to this later) is essentially saying, “I am god of this area of my life: I will dictate the parameters, limits, and morality of my own sexuality.” When we choose lust – or any other sin – our greatest transgression is not the action itself but our rebellion against God, elevating ourselves above His standard of holiness in the same manner Satan did before He was cast out of heaven (Ezek. 28:12-15).
What did Jesus say about Lust?
God ordained in the Old Testament, as a part of the Ten Commandments, that His people be free from adultery. But Jesus took this mandate a step further:
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt. 5:28-30)
Jesus addressed the core issue behind adultery. He cut to the chase. He got to the root of the outward behavior. “If you are willing to look with lust, you’re eventually willing to act with lust,” He said to the legalist Jews, who perhaps stood nearby, chewing their nails and plotting against Him. “And if something is hindering you from purity – rip it out of your life! It is better to bear that loss than the loss of your holiness in God’s eyes.”
Sex is God’s Idea; Lust is Not
In Christian circles, an affair is a devastating thing (it is devastating in any social circle). But the same behavior that would constitute an affair in marriage is accepted, breezed over, and even endorsed by young Christian men and women in relationships across the globe. We would never touch a man – not our husband – that way. We would never be alone with a man – not our husband – in that situation. But we allow it as single women, because lust lies.
The core issue is not adultery or sexual immorality: the core issue is the lust in our hearts. Jesus addressed the heart first, always.
Adultery, pornography, masturbation, mental fantasy and any other kind of sexual immorality are outward signs of an inward idolatry. Just as obesity is a sign of food addiction and drunkenness is a sign of alcoholism, so all sexual misuse and abuse is an indicator that area – the sexual side of ourselves – is under a spiritual attack. Satan wants us to elevate the created (sex) above the Creator, and desires that we worship a feeling rather than the Father.
Sex is God’s plan; lust is not. Lust is Satan’s twist on God’s perfection; the ultimate slap in His loving face.
When does Affection become Lust?
When our desire for physical affection outraces our desire to act consistent to our Christ-won righteousness, affection has become lust.
That may have been a little confusing, so let me explain: a Christian woman wears a cloak of righteousness, given to her by Jesus when she accepted His propitiation (substitutionary payment) for her spiritual debt to God. Now, she behaves righteously because that is who she is: anything else would be below her justified status. Milton Vincent describes this status perfectly in his book, The Gospel Primer:
“Quite literally, the righteousness that God credited to me became my master on the day I was converted! And now I am daily called by God to surrender the members of my being as slaves to do whatever this righteousness dictates.” (Vincent, 21)
Righteous actions (purity) are the result of simply surrendering to the imputed righteousness of Christ on our lives. Therefore, when we choose to sin we are acting contrary to the new nature given to us. It is a choice we make; it is going backwards. When we choose physical gratification over holy resistance to sin, we are silently abdicating our daughter-of-the-King status for temporal satisfaction and man’s approval.
Lust is tricky. Lust dresses itself in love, speaks kind words, and even comes in the form of godly men – men who have weaknesses. Just as women who love God secretly struggle with lust, so do men who love God. And the devil loves to see those weaknesses play against each other to the destruction of what would have been a powerful couple for God. As love grows, affection grows, and physical attraction becomes stronger with time. Many Christian young women get into relationships with high hopes for purity, only to discover that the very man they love is their worst enemy in this battle. She can’t seem to resist him; he can’t seem to resist her. The graying lines between love, affection, and lust cause confusion, and in many cases, compromise.
So in the name of ‘love’, we stand in the dimness and disrobe of Christ’s hard-won cloak of white, picking up the dirty remnants of a past life to hear for an hour what He has spoken over us for a lifetime:
I love you.
You are so beautiful.
You are desired by Me.
How does a woman fight against Lust?
We fight off lust by understanding two concepts:
1. Who I am.
2. Who God is.
Who You Are: How convinced are you of your identity? The more insecure or unsure you are about your role in this world, your person, your looks, and your purpose, the more readily you can be swayed by the voices of the world. Insecurity sets us up for manipulation. Insecurity demands affirmation in order to survive. One of the foremost contributors to sexual compromise is a desire for affirmation: a longing to be told we are beautiful, to be convinced of our worth by male attention (which our culture brands as the currency of feminine value). But a woman who is completely convinced of an identity that transcends ALL human opinion will not need affirmation from anyone. She will be secure, stable, and immovable. She will not be tempted by lesser things because she knows who she is and she knows the God who saved her.
Who God Is: How convinced are you that God is a loving God? For many girls, a poor human father has distorted their perception of God the Father. But we must divorce what we know of fallible man in order to understand in faith who this perfect Father God says He is. God is love. And He loves you, or He would not have taken the time of creating you and putting you in this world. As my pastor said last Sunday – He not only loves you, He likes you. This all may seem trite and repetitive for a Christian girl, but listen to me: what you think about God will directly influence what you think about yourself, and what you think about yourself will influence how much of yourself you are willing to give away for free.
Believing we are women loved by a God who is our Protector, Provider, Defender, Father, and Friend should elevate us to a level from which we refuse to step down into the muddied waters of polluted sexuality.
Our God says He loves us. If you don’t believe me, read His words:
“He who does not love does not know God – for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
“We have KNOWN and BELIEVED the love God has for us. God is love, and [she] who abides in love abides in God, and God in [her].” (1 John 4:16, emphases mine)
“I have loved you.” (John 15:9)
“While [you] were still a sinner, Christ died for [you].” (Romans 5:8)
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love…” (Jer. 31:3)
“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy.” (Hosea 2:19)
When God tells us to avoid the ‘lusts of the flesh’ and the ‘lusts of the eyes’ (1 John 2:16) and not to ‘love the world’, it isn’t because He wants to spoil our fun. It is because there is a much greater love available to us than the love of the world (which is lust), and He doesn’t want that magnum opus love cheapened by faulty predecessors.
I went to my wedding day a virgin, and my first kiss with Mr. M was at the altar. But lust is insidious, and even with a testimony like mine, there were instances of failure, sin, and pushing the peripheral standards into the realm of guilt and condemnation. I know the temptations. I know what it feels like to be the Christian girl wondering what to do with desire, and I know there are many more girls navigating the stage of life I am now past. Perhaps you are like the girl who sent me the email, anguished in heart over what she knows is wrong, but with no hope for a way out.
There is hope. It is not too late for you. No stigma is too strong; no stain is too dark for Christ to wash away. Hold on to who He says you are, and remember who He is.
In This Series:
The Purity Ring is Not the Problem
Sexual Freedom and the Christian Girl