“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, 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 hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, 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 be thrown into hell. (NLT)
Such strong words from Jesus need to be taken seriously. But they can also be taken wrongly. First, this business about self-mutilation is clearly not to be taken literally. Otherwise lots of men would be walking around one-handed and one-eyed. Jesus is rather reminding us to take radical action in order to avoid sin. Making some radical adjustments is preferable to shipwrecking our faith.
Second, finding someone of the opposite sex attractive is not sinful. Sexual attraction is built in to who we are, and to believe someone is sexually attractive is not lust. Otherwise we would have to walk around with paper bags over our heads.
Lust is to do with the second and third look, not the first look. It is to do with imagining sexual relationships with someone with whom we are not in committed relationship. Lust is viewing someone as a sexual object or even possible sexual conquest quite divorced from who they are as persons.
Few adulterous relationships begin spontaneously. Before our bodies get involved, our hearts are engaged. Before murder there is anger; before theft there is covetousness; before adultery there is lust. It is in the heart that these battles are lost or won.
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