You love Starbucks. In fact, you go to Starbucks everyday. Not because you love the coffee, but because you love meeting the young college girls who go there, thanks to a nearby campus. You look at them and lust after them, convincing yourself, as a Christian, that as long as you don’t have sex with them, it’s okay.
You can’t wait until your wife goes to bed. You’ve been fantasizing all day about the girls you see online. The unlimited access to thousands of beautiful—and naked—women that you have, right at your fingertips. You look at pornography daily, and masturbate excessively. Your wife has no idea, even though your pornography addiction is the very reason that your marital sex-life is dwindling. You love your wife—or so you say—and reason that masturbation is okay, since your not actually having sex with another woman. Even still, you dread the day that your wife walks in on you and catches you in the act.
The mind that becomes imprisoned by lust gains a couple of cellmates named Denial and Rationalization. We love to mask the behaviors we know to be sinful; denying them for what they truly are: sin. We rationalize our behavior, measuring our lives against those around us, considering that because they are doing it, it must be acceptable. We work to minimize our sin, and reject the devastation it has, or will, cause us, and others. But the message of Jesus Christ goes beyond any act of sexual immorality, and cuts right to the heart of the issue. Literally.
Sexual immorality is just another manifestation of your heart condition. Jesus, in Matthew 5:28, says that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (emphasis mine). To look at a woman with lustful intent is to gaze upon another person with sexual gratification in mind. We turn our sisters, His daughters, into objects of our own sinful desires. We dehumanize them. When we lust in our minds, we sin in our hearts. Jesus says we’ve already committed adultery.
So how do we avoid it? Jesus goes on to say that “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29a, 30a).
Recently, I was talking with a friend when the fact that he did not have the Internet came up. What? Who doesn’t have the Internet these days? Apparently him. Curious, I asked him why. His reason astonished me—but not as much as it encouraged me. He said that he did not have the Internet because he “had problems looking at things he shouldn’t be looking at.” He struggles with pornography. Acknowledging this struggle, and born out of his desire to please God, he chose not to get the Internet. He dismembered himself from pornography by plucking out his proverbial eye. He took preventive measures against his sin. This is what Christ calls us to do.
In the concluding verse of the passage on adultery, Jesus gives us the reason as to why we should take such preventive measures against our sexual sin. “It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:30b). What Jesus is saying is that it is better to separate our selves from the temporal pleasures of sin, rather than be separated from God for eternity.
If going to Starbucks, or any other place, sets you up to stumble after the lust of the flesh, don’t go! If you struggle with addiction to pornography, get rid of the Internet, or take preventive measures to ensure that you are not alone in front of a computer that may have access to pornography. Cut if off, and pluck it out.