Love, not Lust

Here’s the full audio of Pastor Michael’s sermon from January 21, 2018, on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:27-32. This is part of our second series this year on the Sermon on the Mount, this one focused on “Love as the Fulfillment of the Law.”

And here’s a written excerpt, on the nature of lust:

What is the harm that Jesus is talking about here, in his teaching on adultery and lust? Let’s listen to Jesus’ teaching again:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

One of the keys to understanding this teaching is understanding what Jesus means by “lust.” Again, it’s not simply “desire”—it’s strong desire, even excessive desire.

But there’s something else that will get missed if we’re simply reading this in our English Bibles: the word for “lust” here is the word used in the New Testament to translate the last of the Ten Commandments. That’s right—Jesus is talking about a man “coveting” another woman.

You might remember that tenth Commandment. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house,” it says. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Now, there’s a strong flavour of patriarchy here that we can push against. In the biblical world, both Old and New Testaments, all these things belonged to the man, the male head of household: the house, the ox, the donkey, the slave, and yes, even the wife. Women were, legally speaking, men’s property. We can and should push against this idea, for “in Christ there is no ‘male and female,’” as the Apostle Paul so strongly asserts in Galatians 3:28.

But here’s the point I’m wanting us to see here: the language of “lusting” here, or “coveting,” carries within it the idea of “desiring to own” or “wanting to possess for oneself.”

That’s important, because it gets right to the heart of the problem of sexual lust. Lust dehumanizes the person it desires. It doesn’t see the other person as a person, as a human being created in God’s image. It sees the other person as an object, a thing to be possessed, to be controlled, something to be used simply for our own sexual pleasure.

And so we have another lesson in the way of love according to Jesus:

The way of love doesn’t treat others as objects to possess, or things that exist to satisfy our desires. The way of love treats all others as persons created in God’s image and loved by God.

For some additional practical thoughts on dealing with our own sin, see Pastor Michael’s blog post and sermon on “Dying with Christ, Being Raised with Christ.”

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