On Sexual Lust, or “The Problem Isn’t in Your Eyes – or My Body”

The Continuum:

Libertinism………………………………………..Asceticism

I’m not the problem.

Really, I’m not. Just because I’m female…not overweight…and wear a bikini on the beach – none of this makes me the problem for any male believer dealing with lust.

And because I’m not the problem, I’m not the answer either. The problem, my brothers, is in your heads and hearts, and therefore the solution also lies there (via the Holy Spirit). Sorry, I can only help you by praying for you to think like Jesus. ’Cuz I sure would love for you to look at me like Jesus does.

And I’ll tell you, Jesus doesn’t avoid looking at me any more than he looks at me “lustfully in his heart.”

That’s because Jesus never forgets what he’s looking at when he looks at a woman (beautiful by her culture’s standards or not): a beautiful and holistic creation of his Father – a body with a soul and spirit and intellect, all so intricately bound together they are inseparable.

Oh, my brothers in Jesus, that you would look at your sisters in Christ – indeed, at all women – through this lens!

You see, to indulge in the thinking at either end of this continuum (see above) is to think – and therefore behave – askew.

Believers generally agree on the base problem with the libertine approach. Full indulgence of  lust leads to all kinds of havoc, which hardly needs to be listed here. (And, I might add, even our licentious culture reluctantly concedes outright libertinism is a dangerous path.) What’s the bottom line sin with this thinking and behavior? Women become purely sexual objects – harmful to them, and a blatant disregard for the fact that their Creator made them complex creatures – body, soul, and spirit – in his very own image.

Bad, bad, we say. “Don’t go there!” churches and leaders scream, plead, exhort, and rebuke men. “Stay out of Hooters and strip clubs and get the protective software to keep you away from porn.”

And the solution that gets touted by Arterburn & Co.? “Stay away from women. Don’t look. Whatever you do, DON’T LOOK!!!” As if they’re seizing Lot by the hand as he runs wildly from the burning cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. As if women were the equivalent of those cesspools, and these brothers are in danger of turning into pillars of salt if they turn their eyes towards the wickedness of womankind.

There are two problems with this line of thinking. First of all, it simply doesn’t work. Our culture is awash, positively swimming in sexual temptation; a blind man can see it. So unless my brother retreats to a desert hermitage, he will be exposed to this temptation, “parental controls” on or no.

Another reason it doesn’t work is that even believers cannot sustain this kind of thinking forever. We men and women are frail in the sinful nature, however willing our spirits might be.

To put it more theologically, this type of discipline is based on the Law, not Grace. And we all know where the Law gets us: fallen and condemned, however hard we try.

The second problem with this line of thinking is that it does the same thing to women as the licentious approach: it objectifies us. The guy who ogles me objectifies me as a sexual object; the brother, however well-intentioned, who avoids me (including eye contact but especially any kind of touch) also objectifies me. Worse, he makes me the source of temptation.

I am not. Unless I’m genuinely being tempting (and it will be obvious), I am not the temptation. Please, don’t look at me as an evil to be avoided, and don’t quote the Psalmist in the process (“I will set before my eyes no vile thing,” Ps. 101:3a).

I am a complete person. I have a body, a soul, a spirit, a mind, a heart. No one part of me defines me. God made me complex in so many ways. And I invite you to appreciate all of me as a reflection of God’s beauty, God’s creativity, and God’s holiness.

Look at me, please, the way Jesus does: straight in the eye, with a smile of acceptance and hands outstretched in friendship and strength. Don’t turn the other way because I’m female.

Please – will a man in the church stand up and teach this? I will applaud, “amen,” and happily pitch in to see this message make its way into the hearts of my brothers who so want to walk in holiness. Many of these men work so doggedly to stay sexually pure, constructing all the defensive behavioral barriers Arterburn & Co. tell them to put around their eyes, minds, and marriages.

But my brothers in Christ cannot win this battle by taking only a defensive stance. The true freedom – with any issue – comes when our minds are transformed and our hearts renewed. I want to see you men set free from the long and futile slough of self-help, into the light of thinking and seeing like Jesus.

In that place, you will find a rich, beautiful world of rich, beautiful relationships with beautiful (because they were made by your Father) women.

I long to see us all free of the Law, and I long to see women free of objectification.

Because we sisters (we women) are weary of being seen as a problem to be avoided. We want to walk in dynamic and rich friendship and partnership with our brothers in Christ – to show the world how Jesus sees…and how he loves.

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Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 1:20 am  Comments (24)  

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  1. Hi Amanda,

    I saw your post on Micah Murray’s website and I have to say that this is a terrific column (just as Micah’s is).

    What you are talking about here is how I am now teaching my 17 year old son (and any other men who would care to listen).

    Just as it says in Hebrews, the hearing the Law and trying to live the Law causes a veil to go over our eyes (both men and women).

    • Thanks Ed! Blessings on you as you teach your son what we all need to know & do: think and see like Jesus. May your tribe increase, lol.

      • You bet. Not that your column can’t be as persuasive as a man’s column — but this is really a message that men need to carry to other men, especially the younger men. Even as believers, we men have been “culturally” trained that we have to lust and must lust — in fact, that it is a requirement and an expectation of us. Which means that it is the mother of all self-fulfilling prophecies.

        If you get a chance, please study through this website. It has been absolutely transformational for me:

        http://mychainsaregone.org

        Although, it is primarily focused on pornography (which is another can of worms itself because how do you define it? — Evangelical Christianity has a hundred different definitions of what it actually is), it explains what Jesus taught: That sin comes from the inside of us — not the outside. When we try to make the outside world the focus, we begin to act like helpless victims instead of the Christ-transformed believers that we actually are. We also risk going a little bit crazy trying to change everything in the world to try and suit us.

        The website also uses a term called “porno-prudery” which sounds very similar to your libertinism vs. asceticism illustration.

        Blessings on everything that you do! — and let me know what you think about the website.

      • Thanks again, Ed. I’ll check out the website. I have some dear friends who deal exactly with this, and our pastor just talked about this Sunday (which is slightly amazing, and I think overall he did a great job: ). Actually the guy from the site you referred me to has commented on this post.

        Carry on – maybe one day we won’t be such a minority, lol.

  2. Dear Amanda,

    I agree with most everything you said. The problem is most certainly the heart and Jesus is the one and only cure for that condition. (known as sin) I do however think that there are very valid reasons for being conscientious of what you wear and when you wear it. I’m a 21 year old male, so I’m pretty much exactly who you’re talking to and about, and like many my age I really struggle with purity. I have a girlfriend that I’ve been dating for the past 2 years and whom I’m planning to propose to sometime next school year. Through the course of our relationship there has been a number of times where I’ve asked her not to wear something because it made me feel uncomfortable and though it’s my problem she’s always been kind enough to change for my sake. I feel these and other instances of being considerate of men’s struggles are no different than when I’m very careful of what I say about certain things knowing she/someone else might be insure about. Unintentionally and innocently I can say something that can cause a lot of pain and hardship if I’m not careful. That persons struggle with self worth is as much my fault as my girlfriends looks are her fault yet I feel there is a consideration we can give each other as we work through our struggles together.

    Love, a fellow believer in Christ, Christopher.

    • Christopher, If every believer exhibited the humility you’ve displayed in your email the church would be bursting at the seams and the world would be a better place. Both within and without the church, we are to love people like Jesus did – unconditionally, no matter how they dress. (Duh.) And among believers, we’re to lay down our rights. I think this means guys, in love, lay down their culturally-endowed “right” to decree what’s “appropriate” for women to wear. Simultaneously, women, in love, lay down their God-given right to wear what they want. We set aside our rights for one another – this is an act of mutual submission (cf. Eph. 5). If you and your girlfriend are trying to wait till marriage to have sex, then absolutely y’all do whatever it takes for that worthy goal. I admire your humility in asking her to wear less tempting things; I hope she is amenable…again, as an act of selfless love. What you’re talking about is honoring one another within a romantic relationship. My post is more concerned with the overall slut-shaming that happens all-too-often among believers. I think these are different contexts. Anyway, kudos to you and your girlfriend and I wish you all the best!

  3. Amanda,

    I linked over to your page and enjoyed reading your article.

    If I may offer another perspective on what you maybe experiencing from males when you dress “provocatively” (and please know that I use that term not in reference to your intent but to illustrate the point I am about to make).

    As a male, I feel that my struggle against the sexual desires of the flesh is unique. Nobody has had it as bad as I have, and my body and mind respond to images and thoughts with more depth than any other individuals’ does.

    Is that the truth? No. But does it feel that way for many of us? Absolutely.

    At the pool… at the beach… at the gym… during the summer… during and around business hours when the chic professional look is out en force… we take notice.

    We do not want to take notice, we try not to take notice but we take notice!

    I think many males will agree in that, when I avoid direct visual contact with you… I do not wish to shame you. I do not think of you as a harlot of some sort nor do I judge anyone who is able to look upon you casually and innocently. Man, woman, child, whoever.

    I will avoid gazing on you because I have been taught that the physical attraction I feel when I do, is wrong.

    I will avoid admiring the beauty of the shape God has made possible and that you have maintained, because I have been taught not to walk the fine line between admiration and committing adultery in my heart.

    I will avoid touching you because somewhere deep down, I will feel lust.

    I have also been taught that you will feel disrespected and objectified if I am not careful how I handle myself.

    Please understand that I do not judge you, I do not label you, I do not make judgements regarding you.

    Please understand that the problem is my own, that I may be aware of my own guilt and weakness (and really weakness is such a cop-out word to use when it comes to labeling how we react or give in to the sin that we tend to favor) in this area.

    Please understand that YOU do not make me uncomfortable at all, but my attempt to stifle the type of enjoyment I get from seeing your physique DOES make me uncomfortable. Why? Because I want to relish in it.

    I imagine you take your environment into context and if you know you are near a great number of males who have a weakness in this area, that you likely would cover up. I don’t think this is such a bad thing, as Paul writes in both Romans and Corinthians: “it is better not to eat meat or drink wine or anything else if it causes a brother to stumble.”

    (And I will note here that the same would apply for the dudes who have cared for their own bodies and enjoy sunning themselves when they are in the vicinity of women who have a weakness in the same area)

    I do feel you should wear whatever you like, be comfortable, feel beautiful. It is important to our own esteem to feel desirable to others, and we should all be fortunate enough to experience that elation.

    Wear your bikini, enjoy the sun and life in whatever dress feels comfortable and appealing to you. This is your right!

    Our sin is our own, it is not your problem. I want to be able to look at you with agape and purity, and many times I will be able to without issue. Other times I know that well, it’s just better not to do so.

    And when those times occur, it will have nothing to do with your garment (or lack thereof 😉 ) but everything to do with where I am spiritually and my strength of will.

    Anyways, great article, Amanda. It really opened my eyes to the fact that averting my eyes and attention may be just as damaging as a lustful stare. I (and likely many men) think I need to reassess my frame of mind when it comes to the female body and how I personally view and deal with it. I cringe to think that I have probably attributed to women feeling this way, and you have the credit for helping me start a course correction in this part of my life.

    Luis

    • Luis, Thank you so very much for your affirmation, and your further explanation. I will readily admit that I DON’T know what it’s like to deal with this issue (sexual lust isn’t my temptation; Lord knows I have others enough to keep me busy, lol). So I try to make my writing and talking on this subject compassionate. I want my brothers to walk in freedom, growth, expansiveness. And truth.

      I pray the Truth, Strength, and Transformation of Jesus upon you as you seek to think like him…so you can see like him, and act like him. He will help you!!

      (And for the record, I am cognizant of what I wear around especially guys I know are dealing with this. I’m willing to give up my right to wear whatever I want, if it will help another get out of the pits of this and into freedom. But I just can’t let it be imposed on me, and I know that, long-term, it’s not the solution. Anyway, I’m always seeking to be kind. Sometimes I score; sometimes I don’t, lol.)

      Thank you again.

    • Brother Luis, I’d like to suggest what might help you gain permanent victory in this area. The lust problem, falsely wed to sight and touch by society, is actually relational. God’s Word focuses on how we relate to women—to a particular one in faithful marriage, and to the rest of them in moral purity.

      I too was trained by modern culture to be sexually stimulated at the sight of feminine beauty. But when I entered nursing and began to see and touch the female body routinely, I discovered that the basis of such training was fantasy, not reality.

      Years later, after learning the harmful effects of this false training, I researched its origin. As a sincere pastor, I was ashamed to find that church leadership has been its major proponent. This caused me to remove my culture-tinted glasses and re-read the Bible. What a surprise!

      My review of Scripture and history led me to join some other pastors in creating the MCAG website, where we teach from a male perspective much of what Amanda has expressed from a female viewpoint. If you want to see women for the rest of your life as God does, I suggest that a careful study of God’s truth about our bodies, (which we try to provide at MCAG – http://www.mychainsaregone.org) will cleanse your mind from its previous mistraining.

      Blessings on your journey!

  4. KUDOS! KUDOS! KUDOS!

    Amanda,

    I am thrilled to tell you that as a man (in ministry!) who struggled with porn for over 30 years, it was not until I finally came to understand the truths that you proclaim her that God delivered me from that bondage.

    You are absolutely right… the man who “bounces his eyes” is just as guilty of sexually objectifying women as the man who ogles them.

    The way I’ve come to say it is this:

    The church and the porn industry have the *exact same perspective* on the meaning of the human form! They both consider the sight of it to be a sexual event. They only differ in what *response* to the sight they recommend!

    When I studied the scriptures and came to a biblical understanding of the meaning of the human form (irrespective of clothing), I realized that that form–male AND female–is designed by God in his image… it is designed to reveal HIM!! It is NOT a “temptation.” It is NOT a “danger.” It is the glory of God on display for all to see!

    Because the world does now know that the human form is God’s image, their error is understandable. But the church… *We should know the truth!! The church has completely ignored–and in many cases, denied–the true meaning of our bodies as revealers of God’s image. And we have defaulted to–and AFFIRMED–the world’s false idea of their meaning.

    Consequently, every strategy for purity focuses on reducing the *impact* of the *sight* of that “sexual” form on men (and women). They ALL tell us to “avoid seeing.”

    But we are not sexually impure because of WHAT we see… we are sexually impure because of HOW we see!

    We sinfully view the unclothed human form because we have a sinful view of the unclothed human form!

    We have completely ignored the teaching of Jesus in Mark 7 which teaches that “nothing outside of a man can defile him going into him.” and we have put the blame for male impurity on the feminine version of God’s image instead.

    When God set me free… it was a fulfillment of Jesus’ words in John 8:32… “You will know the truth, and the truth will MAKE YOU FREE.”

    As I began to discern how God had set me free, the Lord also allowed me to connect with several other pastors who had been similarly set free. We worked together to establish a website that proclaims the very same truth that you’ve spoken in this article. We’ve called it MyChainsAreGone.org. I invite you, your readers, and anyone else to read through the articles on the MCAG site for an explanation of the lies we’ve believed, and the truth that sets free.

    http://mychainsaregone.org

    Thank you, Amanda! This is a message that needs to spread!!

    • Thank you SO MUCH. It is really affirming to hear this feedback. I’ve felt like a lone reed against the tide, lol. I will delve into your site and anticipate I’ll be sharing it with a number of people.

      You word things really, really well, even for Twitter. “But we are not sexually impure because of WHAT we see… we are sexually impure because of HOW we see!”

      Thank you again. Keep up the teaching.

      • Amanda,

        I believe God is raising up people to address this. Just recently, The Lord supernaturally (seemed to me, anyway) assembled a group of people that all have a similar passion to speak this very needed message… not just to men struggling with pornography and lust, but to ALL people… for the pornographic view of the body is more deeply damaging to women than it is to men.

        In general… for men, the pornographic view of the body (i.e. the sight of the human form is a sexual event) is external… it affects how they view others–that is, women.

        But for women, the pornographic view of the body is *internal.* It affects how they view *themselves!”

        As you clearly pointed out in your article, we have told women again and again that THEY are the problem when it comes to men’s sin.

        Thanks for taking time to read our site… and pass it along.

        David

      • I’ve been browsing your site and LOVING it. Thanks so much for what you do. Considering the “fallout” from our pastor’s message Sunday, I anticipate sharing it quite a bit.

        Carry on, brother!

  5. I just linked your article on the MCAG Facebook page… (and my personal page!)

    I hope your article gets LOTS of hits!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Chains-Are-Gone/147769995346288

    • Thanks, David. My husband and I have been browsing your site…that’s some good conversation. 🙂 I’m blessed to be married to a man who seeks Truth and pursues it doggedly.

      • That’s great to hear, Amanda.

        I hope that if you have questions or comments about the MCAG site, you won’t hesitate to contact us. We love to be a part of “good conversations” about its teaching.

        I know that you might assume that I am “Pastor David” on the MCAG, but I’m actually Pastor Ed… I chose to go by my middle name for a variety of reasons (…lots of other “Davids” on the team already, for one!)

        Pastor David on MCAG is the guy who wrote the article/brochure blasting the “Men are Visual” myth.

        Anyway, you can reach us through the “contact” page on MCAG (or you can use my personal email captured by your blog, of course!).

        I love to hear when people are dogged “pursuers of truth.” Sometimes that pursuit can take you places you never expected, but if we stick to it and embrace the truth, though it be unexpected, it yields the fruit of freedom in our lives.

        David
        (“Pastor Ed” on MCAG)

  6. Wonderful perspective, Amanda. The Holy Spirit has us on this same wave length. I think He’s up to something! And I take up the challenge you offered above to teach other men these truths. I just finished a two part series on what lust is and what it isn’t over at http://sternadventures.wordpress.com. Keep saying what you’re saying. Blessings to you and yours!

    • Thank you! I’ve browsed your blog…All this is more potent coming from a brother, so blessings to you. May your tribe increase!

      • Thanks Amanda. We’re up to #11 in September as far as tribal increase goes. 😉

      • Excellent! You do know you and your wife don’t have to do it alone, right? 😉

      • Haha. 🙂 We do, but God keeps blessing us with these cute little people.

  7. Thanks for having the courage to speak up and speak out. I just posted a link to this blog article on Facebook, In February I wrote a brochure addressing this issue: (http://www.pastordavidrn.com/files/DangerousMaleMyth.html)

    • Super fantastic brochure, David. THANK YOU TONS for putting it together. I will be sharing it, believe me.

      Carry on with your Truth-teaching!


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