Love and Lust - A Reflection on Matthew 5:27-32
I find myself bemused when I hear about couples saying they practice a “look, but
don’t touch” policy in their relationships. This “policy” basically allows a partner to
“look” at other men/women, provided they draw the line there. I have always found
this absurd, even in my days before Christ, because when you “look” at someone, it
isn’t merely about glancing at them casually, but seeing them as objects of desire,
and fantasizing about possessing them.
As Jesus points out very clearly in today’s passage, there isn’t any real difference
between imagining being intimate with somebody and actually being intimate with
them. Cheating on somebody in your heart is still cheating. Besides, as all of you
watching this (or reading this) know too well, no affair has ever begun
spontaneously. It is always that “look” —that desire to possess—that has preceded
it. The forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden is a prime example. I often illustrate how
the devil worked there.
He wouldn’t have offered the fruit to Eve and told her to eat of it. She would have
refused point blank. So, first, he would have told her to “look”. “There’s no harm in
looking, is there?”, he would have said, and rationalizing it to herself, Eve would
have decided that there, indeed, was no harm in looking. “There’s no harm in
touching,” he would have told her next. And then he’d have said, “There’s no harm in
smelling.” And then, without him having to say another word, Eve would have bitten
into the apple, because, so close to her mouth, it would have been impossible for her
So, what should one do? Simple. Don’t look. It all begins there, with the first look of
longing, of lust. And, often this first look isn’t even at a man or woman in real life. It’s
looking at porn. It objectifies people and debases an act of beauty. If one is already
down the slippery slope, what is one to do? Jesus says, “If your eye causes you to
sin, tear it out and throw it away.” He’s not talking about mutilating oneself; he’s
talking about eliminating the source of temptation. Sometimes, one has to take
radical steps to do this.
Let me end with the words of James. Blessed is anyone who endures temptation.
Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has
promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being
tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.
But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when
that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown,
gives birth to death (James 1:12-15).
So, don’t look.