Lust: A Topic We Just Don’t Talk About…and Are Dying Because of It

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I don’t remember hearing much about lust in church growing up. My most vivid memory was on a Sunday morning when the guest speaker (no pulpit guy in his right mind would have done it then) used the word “masturbate” in his sermon. Now, I don’t remember a whole lot of sermons and I don’t remember the names of all the guys I heard preach as a child much less the reaction of the congregation to particular points in particular sermons. Needless to say I can recall with great clarity who said it, what they said, and how the congregation responded. I will only let you in on the third…the older folks let out an audible gasp while the young people gave him their undivided attention for the next 20 minutes.

That reaction points to a deeper issue…some of the most relevant and important topics are left untouched and unpreached because in some instances our sensitivities have outweighed proper biblical priorities.

The failure of the old bird’s nest analogy:
The only thing I can really remember really being taught about lust in church  growing up (aside from the above story) was that it was the phrase, “It is okay to let a bird land on your head but don’t let it build a nest.” In other words, seeing someone and thinking they are attractive is one thing but taking that a step further in your mind was a sin. The next logical question in the mind of a teenage boy is this, “at exactly what point does the bird’s nest building begin?” One might think answering that question was honest to goodness application of the lesson! I realize looking back that the question is immature.What we should have been taught is this – If we love and value people as God does we won’t have to spend time figuring out when the nest starts getting built…we will have a heart so in tune with God and so aware of the inherent value of others that lust won’t be a part of our thinking.

As humorous as we can make it…what is tragic about the story above is that it is far too common. As serious as this topic is…so serious that Jesus says if you have lust issues gouge out your eye (more on that later) and that is all I have ever heard taught on it? Don’t you think anything a parent or teacher thought might result in your eye being gouged out would have motivated them to teach you about it? How foolish is that? Most parents don’t educate their kids on this at all. Before we can raise young people properly, we have to realize that training our kids to see people from a godly perspective of worth and value won’t happen overnight. We also have to realize someone has to be able to speak openly and honestly about that and not make it such a shameful topic that we neglect giving our children and even adults a biblical perspective about it. That means church leadership needs to make room for these kinds of topics to be openly discussed. Too often this topic is shunned because it seems embarassing to have to talk about this in public.

Our young people are dying for lack of biblical training in this area. Notice I said training, not just teaching. This is not about talking to our kids about this. We have to walk alongside them and help them understand and deal with their God-given urges. We have to help them understand that the urges are natural and that what is important is the proper/biblical context for acting on those urges is the context of marriage. This will take breaking out of our comfort zones for the sake of our children’s future. Someone has to do it and we can’t just hope someone else will step in and fill in for us in the role of bringing up our kids.

The Crocodile Analogy
I think it was Tommy Nelson who said that our lack of teaching our kids about healthy sexuality is like a tourist who visited Egypt. He saw all these guys sitting around the banks of the Nile. They were missing arms and legs and were all bandaged up and dying. So he asked someone what happened to all of these people. A local told him that they had a crocodile problem. Just then a crocodile came out of the Nile and bit a guys leg off right in front of him. He asked the local, “Why isn’t anyone talking about people and warning them about what is going on?” That is where we find ourselves…all kinds of wounds and scars because people were too timid to tackle this issue and do the preventative education that would have saved our children countless hurts.

6 Responses

  1. Well said, Matt. Churches are filled with people who have various wounds & scars, for various reasons. Most of those reasons are subjects & issues that aren’t talked about. And, in my opinion, most churches aren’t facilitators of healing those wounds & scars either. Lust, pornography, sexual addiction ( and various other addictions) are real struggles for a lot of people! And while the church should be a place of restoration, healing, & hope, it’s often where people feel the most shunned. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say, as well as your proposals for positive change.

  2. I remember once being asked to address a high school audience on the subject “When Sex Is Good.” Needless to say, I had their rapt attention from beginning to end.

  3. Sometimes us gals need to remember our clothing choices can add to a problem…so in teaching about lust there are several avenues to consider there – the luster and the lustee tempter. (Not always our doing…but if we are being honest – there are instances people choose to wear something immodest for attention.) Modesty starts when we help our kids make the right choices in school – and we model them ourselves. I appreciate the rule at Gulf Coast where shorts have to be at least finger-length down the legs…that’s a good start. (Don’t even get me started on neckline)

    Your comment about the significant word in church reminded me of when I was a new Christian in college…at a mixed sex retreat of mostly very new young Christians. We had a very frank discussion abuot lust and the leader very kindly gently and honestly explained that if someone had to take a cold shower to prevent the obvious…it had already disobeyed and disrespected God and the parties involved. I powerful lesson still etched in my memory 30 yrs later.

    Dignity and respect for others, eternal value. Thanks for the message.

    1. Barb,

      There are certainly a lot of components to this discussion. It all comes back to each and every person seeing people with value and dignity that will keep our hearts in the right place.

  4. Thank you Barbara for your honesty, but the guys need to think also. I remember a minister at a congregation I attended that wore a gold chain and had his shirt unbuttoned lower than it should have been, teaching Bible class. I’m seeing a lot of girls and guys wearing shorts to services that are in violation of school code. The schools rarely enforce their own code, but too often elders fail to enforce also. I’m often hearing anymore ” we need to pick our battles”. But why the battle? Modesty is not an issue of legalism. We have gone from spending so much time pointing fingers at others that our own barn door was open( Col 3). Our particularity in doctrine was what we chose to set us apart while outwardly we look like the world. Now it is to a point where we are too often more interested in quantity than quality. We need to understand it’s an agape issue. Where is the true agape or philo in causing someone to stumble? Our focus is to be on worship. Granted we can be dressed as they do overseas and there will still be lust, but we should not be thoughtless. Sadly I’ve also seen a trend in shifting authority trends which have also made the problem worse. I spoke to a man in a congregation once whose daughters wore short shorts and Pjs to services fairly regularly. He said he left the choice up to his wife as to how the girls dressed. I had the battle once when our oldest daughter came down one Sunday morning dressed very inappropriately. I asked her to go change and my wife got on me. Men are not to be absolute dictators, but we will be held accountable for failure to run our household, not legalistically, but with others in mind. Women need to understand the jeopardy they place themselves in in trying to usurp authority. Especially in areas which lead more to looking like the world. Jude reminds us that at times there is a fine line between love and fear. Christ sacrifice should be our motive for thinking of how we present ourselves, but if we don’t yield to that Jude also shows an alternative. We too often in our want to overthrow the legalism also succumb to the “anything goes” concept. Paul reminds us that while in Christ we have liberty, it is not license to not agape.

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