All Christian men know the passage:
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)
The problem is we don’t know is how to stop this.
Sometimes it feels like we are wired to notice the bodies of others. In fact we can often be shocked at how much we can be aroused by just looking someone. But as a Christian man, we think “I’m a new creation – I’m not meant to feel this way!”
A brief internet search shows that we are not alone when looking for help to stop lusting after women:
However, the advice given seems to fall into one of three camps:
- Condemnation/shame/works – you shouldn’t do this, it doesn’t honour God or the woman. Try harder, chop off everything that causes you to sin, etc.
- Triumphalistic – you’re a new creation, you’re free from this, shake it off as it’s the old you, repeat “I am the righteousness of Christ”, etc.
- Liberal/humanistic – it’s natural, men are designed the polygamous, there’s nothing you can do about it, accept it as part of who you are, etc.
As well meaning as all of these are, all of them are lacking:
- Using internet filters to cut things off is helpful but ultimately it’s external and doesn’t change our heart. And you can’t avoid going out in summer, nor filter the first accidental glance. Besides self-effort will ultimately fail as apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). And so the cycle of shame will begin again and the more rubbish you feel the more you will act out of that identity.
- Realising your new identity is important – it helps renew our mind (Rom 12:2), and how we act flows out of our new identity. But it’s too easy to treat this as a formula: “I’m saying the right words but it’s not working!” and miss intimacy with the father that changes our heart. It’s also to easy to become inward rather than outward looking.
- Whilst we do need to recognise how God has made us as men, we are not animals subject to our biological urges. We’re made in the image of God and our sexuality means something.
So what can we do? How can we take the good in each of these approaches?
First we recognise that God has made us men and has wired us to notice beauty – so when you notice this happening don’t try and suppress it or pretend it’s not there. That won’t solve anything. Acknowledge it, however realise that the woman is not the goal, but merely the shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.
Second we realise that we are made in the image of God and men are meant to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). We have a higher calling: we are meant to give (love) not take (lust).
Thirdly, we men are made to act not just acknowledge our godly calling to give. After all we are meant to be co-workers with Christ (1 Cor 3:9). I have found the best way to do this is to pray for the woman we see. Something like:
“Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman. I thank you that you created her and that you love her. I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished. Father I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….”
This prayer is not a formula – it’s from the heart. It’s not a inward prayer “father help me to stop lusting!” which assumes we are still bound by our old identity as a sinner. It’s a prayer from our new identity in Christ and in line with what we are meant to do as men.
The Kingdom is advancing – and seeing a beautiful woman is an opportunity for it to forcefully advance in our lives as we step into our destiny as men. Amen.