“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply” (Genesis 1:27-28).
In creating us men and women He also gave us sexuality as a means to continue our existence. And to make sure we did, He made it very good. Combine our strong sex drive with the gift of freewill and our imperfect nature, and boom…Lust came into existence.
We have successfully multiplied to a worldwide population of 7.8 billion. Unfortunately we have also created and multiplied other less than fruitful results from our sexual activities. Sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, pornography, adultery, divorce, single mothers, absent fathers, prostitution, human trafficking. All problems that just keep getting worse. You would think the devil had invented our sexual desire. He has certainly taken advantage of it.
It’s lust versus chastity week in our ongoing series on overcoming the seven deadly sins (vices) with their contrary virtues. Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body. Intense desire, passion, yearning, longing, lasciviousness.
Chastity on the other hand is the state or quality of being chaste; moral purity. Celibacy, purity, innocence, abstinence, virtue in both thoughts and actions.
This is a tough one. As C.S. Lewis pointed out long ago, “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the old Christian rule is, either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.”
Adhering to this view would certainly cure all the problems listed above. But it is not a popular stance or the prevailing “wisdom” in our current culture. In fact, I fear chastity is considered a joke to most. It is ridiculed while lust seems to be celebrated.
In all the other “V” pairings we have explored, there is a fighting chance of living the virtues by utilizing our own ability to control ourselves against the vices. We can be diligent, temperate, charitable, patient and kind. I wonder, do we really stand a chance of being chaste in our current culture left to our own devices?
Sex is all around us. Sex sells. What would advertisers do without it? They count on our lustful desires. And they feed them constantly with words and images. Movies, television, music, magazines, the internet; It’s all full of lust inducing content. This constant barrage of visuals has successfully desensitized us to the negative consequences of our lustful behavior.
The prevailing attitude of popular culture tells us that if it feels good, do it. Why wait? It’s just sex. It’s not hurting anyone. Everybody’s doing it. You only live once. Bad things won’t happen. There’s a pill to make sure, and another one just in case. What’s the big deal?
Lust and sex can ruin lives quickly! That’s the big deal. A very short period of pleasure followed by a lifetime of regret and hardship. Or maybe you get lucky this time. But luck runs out eventually. Why do we take the chance? We want to belong. We want to be loved. And we want pleasure now.
So how can we possibly overcome the luster of lust with the unpopularity of chastity? Unlike the other vices where a little self-control can go a long way toward improving our virtue, we need significant help from above on this one. Lust is too strong an emotion, and too willingly accepted and promoted by society. Plus there is the chemical reaction within us that can quickly become a runaway train. We have little control of the brakes. We will crash.
Let’s make our first line of defense asking for God’s help. Ask it often. Whenever the initial lustful thought begins in our mind, stop and say; “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil!” Admit our weakness and ask for strength.
Next, take a stand. Chastity is the courageous choice. It takes confidence that you are doing the right thing, and determination to not let others persuade you otherwise. No premarital sex. No extramarital sex. A loving faithful relationship with your partner for life. And welcome children. Is that all so bad or so difficult? Or is it too good to be true? No drama. No surprises. I like it!
Avoidance is a good defense as well. Avoid visual stimuli and situations that can lead to lustful thoughts, words and actions. Don’t feed the beast. Stop, drop, and roll was my next thought. You know, the advice we are given if we are on fire. Best to forget the drop and roll in the case of lust. Just stop! Once a lustful thought begins, stop thinking … look away, walk away.
Remember, a person’s body is the body of a person. Don’t objectify and dwell upon it. Acknowledge the beauty created by God and move on. Honor and respect the person.
We all want to be respected and loved. We all are … by God. We really don’t need any more than that. But we want it. So look for it in all the right places. Our families. Find that one person you are meant to spend your life with. Be patient. That person will come along. You will know when they do. Not because of lust, but because of love. Choose love over lust. Know the difference.
Lust takes away from another. You want something from them. It’s all about you. Love gives to another. You want the best for that person. They are more important to you than you are to yourself. Amazing!
Here’s your challenge for the week. Recognize all the lustful words and images that you are subjected to in one day. Start a count in your head as you begin your day. You will be amazed at how many there are. You will likely lose track by noon. That’s fine. The purpose of the exercise is simple awareness. Then think of one way you can reduce that daily count for yourself. Start doing whatever that is immediately.