Summary: A Christian view of sexuality. Lust happens when attraction becomes an overpowering factor in one's life. Chastity is a positive lifestyle marked by self-control.
A cartoon depicts two guys in Hell, and one says to the other: “I was under the impression that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” All of the deadly sins we’ve been studying are distorted or excessive attachments to good things. We make them bad. When life revolves around desire we can become slaves to pleasure.
Followers of Christ seek to maintain high moral standards within a perverse climate of permissiveness. Our morally bankrupt society finds “hooking up” and “friends with benefits” (outside of marriage) a legitimate form of recreation. This amounts to sex without commitment, and it degrades people. Author Frederick Buechner observes that unlawful “sex is sinful to the degree that, instead of drawing people closer to one another, it unites bodies but leaves the lives inside them hungrier and more alone than before.” Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright notes that “instead of being a sacrament, sex has become a toy.”
Lust happens when sexual attraction becomes the dominant and overpowering factor in one’s life. As such it is dehumanizing because individuals become reduced to objects and sex reduced to a bodily function. People who talk about sexual conquest make sex a mere physical need to be satisfied. Lust is bad, not because sex is “dirty” but because desire distorts and trivializes what God intended to be good.
In order to make sense of sexuality, we need to know where our desires originate. They come from the heart, from within. Having strong urges isn’t the problem; selfishly acting on them is a major problem, leading to regret. A clinical study of premarital sex has observed a link between promiscuity and depression. Sexual freedom results in brokenness…and “there is no contraceptive for a broken heart” (Paula Rinehart).
God invented sex; it’s a sacred gift, a natural part of God’s design for us, intended for pleasure and reserved for marriage. We weren’t designed for temporary fleeting passion, but for the wholeness that comes from a “one-flesh” union for life. A Biblical worldview treats sex as intrinsically good; it expresses the intimate, spiritual, and emotional unity of marriage. Like most gifts, sex can be celebrated or abused. The Bible condemns fornication and adultery. Sexual perversion is “taking what God made for one function and using it for an adverse function” (Bill Gothard). Gratification can be controlled. The sex drive is strong, but we can remain unstained by sexual sin.
We ask God to keep us from temptation, yet often we seek temptation. Jesus warned: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). When David saw Bathsheba bathing, the first look was an accident, but the second look was lust. And David’s subsequent actions destroyed the glory of his kingdom. It is better to be safe than sorry. We need to avoid situations that may tempt us to sin…and we need to remind ourselves that wherever we go, Christ is our Chaperone. He is present, observing all that we do and think. Those contemplating sexual immorality are burning a candle to another god.
It’s been said that “Sex has enough combustive force to incinerate conscience, vows, family commitments, religious devotion, and everything else in its path” (Phillip Yancey). We “reap what we sow”, which means when we’re saturated with sexual messages from what we choose to watch on TV, movies and the internet, we will reap increasingly stronger sexual thoughts, desires, and actions. These incite “the illegitimate arousal of legitimate desire” (John Piper). Sexual sin doesn’t happen accidentally. Things don’t “just happen.”
The other side of the coin is chastity. We think of chastity as passive restraint; it is a positive, active lifestyle marked by courage and self-control; it embraces morale wholesomeness, sets boundaries, and seeks purity in a permissive world. Chastity outside of marriage means abstinence; within marriage, it means exclusiveness. When couples say “I do” to one another, they’re saying “I don’t” to everyone else. Marital love is a commitment to fidelity/monogamy. The only good sex is married sex.
C.S. Lewis remarked that “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There’s no getting away from it; the rule is either marriage with complete faithfulness to your spouse, or else total abstinence.”
This is a tough-sell in a culture where sexual immorality enjoys popular approval. On a recent morning news program, a panel was discussing an Olympic athlete who is a virgin, waiting till marriage and focusing on her sport…and the consensus was that she was decidedly not normal. Yet this athlete made a decision that some things in life are worth waiting for. We applaud athletes for their dedication and sacrificial commitment to training, yet our society sees sex as sport.
The Children’s Television Workshop (which produces Sesame Street) recently defined sexuality as simply “something done by two adults to give each other pleasure.” There was no hint that sexuality might have any moral significance or purpose apart from casual, sensual pleasure. This is sex devoid of steadfast love. “In a sex-saturated society, even true believers find it hard to accept that traditional Christian morality offers the fullest, most satisfying life” (Phillip Yancey). Yet nothing else works.