adultery and infidelity are wrong. that's not particularly debatable. some people choose to still physically act on it while other's despise it, judge others for it, and condemn it. but there is more to adultery than the physical act of sex with another who is not your spouse. adultery is also emotional: bonding yourself to another person through the sharing of thoughts, memories, experiences. and while these two scenarios may exclude many people, what about committing adultery in the mind?
Jesus said in matthew 5: "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." [matthew 5:27-28]
for years i have passed over this passage, thinking, "ya, ya ok so don't play out sexual fantasies in the mind" but with media and society the way it's a lot more than that just "sexual fantasies". there are layers and layers to what Jesus is saying here. "anyone who even looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery."
i am reminded here, convicted by Jesus' words, of three huge lessons:
1. look but don't stare
i remember hearing a friend talk about the first time the idea that women are not objects to visually stimulate (not even necessarily sexually) men became so real to him; the moment he was convicted to consider women as so much more than something to please men; the moment he realized for himself what Jesus' words meant. he said that he saw a woman running along the road as he drove. she was pretty, and implied that she looked pretty "hot" too (although he used subtler language). and when he wanted to look back again to get a better look, it struck him that to look back would be wrong; that if he was to look back he would be viewing that woman not as a daughter of God but as a visual for his own pleasure.
chelsea smith, in her sermon "it's time to believe" from the city church, spoke about problems, saying that our focus needs to be solely on God Himself. we can look at our problems, but we need to stare at God. and even more practical is this idea in terms of how we view others, especially those we are attracted to. i can look and see someone to be handsome or beautiful, but if i stare and begin to objectify that person in my mind, than i am committing adultery with them! ultimately i am robbing that person of something that only their spouse is warranted to have.
in matthew 5 Jesus is not talking about sleeping with someone, or being physical with someone in His definition. He is saying that to even entertain the idea in your mind is sin. and that there leads us to point number two...
2. seemingly-innocent actually-sinful thoughts
i once again confess that i am absolutely a dreamer. i try to keep it real, but it's not always that successful. i have written numerous times about my "fantasies" or imagination wanderings, pretty much all of which never come true. i am going to go out on a whim here and say, you do the same?
i have been reading this book called "anonymous" by alicia britt chole. it's great: talking about Jesus' hidden years and about how, during the years He wasn't acting in recorded ministry, He was preparing or being prepared for His short years in ministry as the gospel records.
something that has struck me most, and that resonates with this topic, is how, even in the face of satan and very alluring prepositions of food, fame, and power, Jesus did not waiver. but truthfully, He deserves even more credit than that.
Jesus was (is) both fully man, and fully God. throughout the course of His life He could have chosen to sin, He could have taken another path - one that would not permit Him to be a sinless, blameless sacrifice however - but Jesus kept His eye on the prize and fulfilled wonderfully the perfect plan that was set out for Him. let's not downplay this: before He was taken away by the officials to be persecuted He did cry out to God, asking for the "cup" to be taken from Him were it to be God's will. i absolutely love this fact because it shows His humanity. it shows that He was not free from the physical pain, horror, and suffering, but He persisted because He was obedient and because He is exceeding in an abundance of love for us.
and in recognizing His humanity, it is even more incredible that He did not waiver before Satan: not that it's incredible His didn't waiver phycially but He didn't waiver mentally.
in order for Jesus to be completely sinless, then it means that He didn't even think, consider, or ponder the temptation before Him. He looked, He saw, but He didn't stare. His gaze was solely set on Heaven above, so much so that no other thing was even worth the thought, or the stare, away from His God-ordained purpose.
alicia britt chole writes,
"we are accountable before God for our imaginations as much as for our deeds. even in His thought life, He refused to bask in the attention and awe of mankind.
in seasons where we question our value, we can all too easily create - and frequently visit - an alternative version of life in our minds. though such thoughts may provide temporary color to what we perceive to be an otherwise dull existence, they are still an investment in untruth.
what is under investigation here is our vain imaginations - those thought patterns that puff us up from the inside out or invite us to escape from reality and experience a more affirming existence in our minds."
these spaces that we then create in our minds can separate us not only from reality, but from God's purpose. because sin is essentially defined as that which is in opposition to, contradicts, or separates us from God, our untamed and sometimes extravagant musings outside of God's plan distance us from truly embracing or accepting that which He has for us.
3. the need for disciplined imaginations
"do you trust God with the storyline of your life?" was the question blogger, katie, was convicted by and which inspired her to write this excellent post. so often we say, "yes God, you can have my whole life. i want you to write my love story. blah blah blah" but then we turn around and hear a sweet story of how our friends got together, or how a proposal went down, or how a couple has been married for 67 years, or how an acquaintance acquired a cool job. then, so easily, we want and long, for those same cute-wonderful-fun-excellent-exciting things to happen to us, not really surrendering our wants for what God has in store.
katie wrote perfectly,
"perhaps, it’s the writer in me, because i’ll take a look at my life and think of a number of different nice and neat ways everything could come together and work out. this could happen like this… and this like this…when we dream up our own ideas of how we want things to be, even when they are seemingly innocent, we end up in this paradigm of trying to fit what God's doing into our ideals. for example, "types" - as in to say, my "type" has blonde hair, is tall, loves Jesus, and has a good sense of humour [which is not true for me haha!]. then if i meet a man who's not blonde, not tall, and not funny, but yet he loves Jesus, while continuing to project this ideal on Him and at the same time saying i want what God has for me, i'm not fully surrendered to Him because i'm then disappointed with what He brought me based on what i thought.
that’s not surrendering, though.
and it certainly isn’t trusting God with the storyline of my life."
discipling our imaginations can be incredibly challenging, especially when we think we are entitled to certain things, or are convinced that God has specific things for us so we conjure up how we expect them to be. it is absolutely critical that we not live out in our thoughts what we know we should not live out in our lives, like lust and adultery. as chole writes, vain imaginations make us discontent with our current realities. there are repercussions to allowing ourselves to live, or engage in, unrealistic fantasies because our minds are not contained environments, they are controlling environments. like in the original example of adultery, families and marriages are broken, people get hurt; in lust, people are deceived,compromised or degraded as physical objects and not as well-rounded people.
a translation of "above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" is
"Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life"
what we let into our mind, and what we design in our imaginations, will dictate how we live: how we see ourselves, our situation and circumstances, and how we view others. further, what occupies our imaginations will help us to act in situations of trial and temptation.
chole asks, "would Jesus have been able to resist the lure of man's attention and awe on the top of the temple if he had fed his imagination with daydreams? No.
may we likewise be careful to not use our imaginations in a way today that will compromise our integrity tomorrow."
lusting, a different perpective by becca
christian man = perfect husband by good women project
trusting God with my story by katie
"anonymous" by alicia britt chole