When was the last time you heard Christians talking about lust? For most people it’s a shameful, embarrassing subject that for good reasons we don’t tend to talk about. Yet if we take Jesus’ teaching seriously (Matt 5:27-30) then it’s something we should at least teach and preach about, although probably more in the context of small groups and one to one. Jesus has some strong words for those who look lustfully at others. Why? Because lusting is the opposite to loving your neighbour. Lust sees your neighbour as something who to be enjoyed, used, and probably then discarded. Love sees your neighbour as someone to be respected, valued and honoured.
Why is lust so harmful? Well, firstly, it takes no account of the wider community. In the heat of the moment you don’t tend to think about the effect on those around you. But families are destroyed by one person’s addiction to pornography, congregations devastated by the minister’s affair, children left without the support of a parent. Lust is dangerous and destructive.
Lust also takes no account of consequences. According to Paul even an encounter with a prostitute creates a one-flesh bond (1 Cor 6:16). There is in God’s eyes no such thing as “casual sex”. The aftermath of an affair leaves behind emotional and spiritual consequences, maybe even an unwanted pregnancy.
Lust is also the antithesis of commitment. It’s about the enjoyment of the moment, without regard to the future, and the long-term well-being of your partner. And if that partner no longer fulfils you, then the chances are you simply move on to someone else.
We may not talk about lust that often, but it’s something that we need take seriously. That’s why that Psalm so often quoted in Lent is so relevant to us today:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
May that be the prayer of us all. Amen.