“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:27-28).
God takes sexual immorality very seriously, and it often starts with lust.
People do not just wake up and decide to sin. They respond to a temptation, which is then met with another temptation. And another. Where sexual immorality is concerned, that first temptation is often lust.
The problem is not seeing an attractive person and appreciating their good looks. It’s the second look. Looking back to take it in some more. You’re saying, “I’d like me some of that.” And that’s the seed of sexual immorality. From there it’s just one more compromise, then another compromise, and you’ve done something you can’t undo.
It’s after this statement that Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matt 27:29). Don’t mess around. Cut out whatever has to be cut out to get away from this sin.
Sexual immorality appears to be a special problem. The scriptures normally tell us to “resist the devil” (James 4:7, 1Pet 5:9), but about sexual immorality, it says, “flee.”
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1Cor 6:18). Do not sin against your body. Don’t even get close to it. We like to see how close to the line we can get without stepping over. Then it’s easy to stumble and step over.
The problem is our society loves it some lust. Oh, it loves sexual immorality, too, but things designed to provoke lust are just everywhere. You can’t turn on the television, you can’t load up a web page. Even the ads on Christian sites are frequently wholly inappropriate, and the ads you can see on other sites would have been unmentionable in previous generations.
Leave the house, and the clothes that people wear are far more revealing than they need to be. And that’s without going to the gym.
So what do we do? “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” Wherever possible, cut out sources of lust. You may need to cancel some magazines. Not just the traditional “smutty” magazines; we’re talking about things like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition or Maxim. Or whatever the women’s equivalent may be.
Wait, how many people still read magazines? But we’ve got TV and streaming services. And our phones and computers. Ad blockers and parental controls can let us filter what we see. We can make choices about what shows and sites we look at.
But then we have to leave the house. How do we manage? The scriptures frequently talk about the need for “self-control” (eg, Gal 5:22-23, 2Pet 1:5-8). This is a habit we have to get into. Rather than getting snared when you see something provocative, you can choose not to. And this, I find, is easier when you go into situations where this is likely with your eyes open.
Don’t be surprised; plan for it. “I’m about to walk into the gym/mall/school, I’m probably going to see something. This is how I’m going to respond.” And then do it. This, too, is “gouging out your eye” — refusing to let it lead you into sin. Easier said than done? Yeah. Doable? Yeah.
This can be applied to websites, too. It only takes a moment of strength to hit “reload”, and hopefully that ad will go away. Or maybe you’ll have to come back to that site later. If not, steel yourself to do what you were there to do and ignore the ad. Because if you feed that monster, it grows stronger. But if you can starve it, it will get weaker.
We live in a world designed to provoke lust in us. But lust is poison. Respond appropriately.
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Part of Christianity 102