FROM LUST TO LOVE

MATTHEW 6:27-30

SPRING CLEANING 2.0 SERIES

MAY 1, 2016

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

(Play Audio)

 

            On the way home from church last week Trudy commented, "So we have three more deadly sins left in the Spring Cleaning 2.0 sermon series."

            I said, "Yep, three more ... Lust, gluttony and anger."

            We proceeded to drive in silence, but my mind was in gear. I thought to myself, "Which of the remaining three should I choose for Mother's Day, after all it's only two Sunday's away." I thought to myself, "I certainly don't want to talk about lust. That seems highly inappropriate for that day. Maybe we should talk about gluttony on Mother's Day since I recall my mom regularly telling me to clean my plate before I went back outside to play, or maybe anger and begin with the question, 'How could you tell your mother was upset with you?'"

            I still haven't decided which one to focus upon next week. So I ask all the moms here today to help me. Which of the two gluttony or anger should be the topic for Mother's Day? That may be like asking you to choose between a root canal or a kidney stone, but gluttony and anger are the only two deadly sins left in our series. So which is it? How many vote for gluttony? How many for anger? Alrighty then, anger it is.

            This morning we tackle the fifth deadly sin in our series. We have tackled sloth, pride, greed, envy and today we tackle lust. Listen to what Jesus had to say about it. I'm reading from his Sermon on the Mount.

 

            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. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go to hell.

 

            Lust. Jesus clearly did not think very highly of it. In his eyes if we lust we break the seventh commandment. Note, he primarily addresses men here because the Sermon on the Mount was primarily addressed to his disciples, but lust is not the exclusive domain of the male gender. Granted men may have the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, but women also have People magazine's "The Sexiest Man Alive" issue.

            According to the dictionary lust is an intense, self-indulgent (Get that? Self-indulgent), unrestrained sexual craving, but let's be clear here. There is a difference between sexual desire and lust. The bible clearly recognizes and celebrates the passion of sexual desire. The Song of Solomon, after all, is all about sexual passion. Of course, throughout biblical history this passion in the Song of Solomon has been played down. The Jews said the Song of Solomon described God's love for Israel, and then Christians described it as God's love for the church. It describes neither. The Song of Solomon portrays the passion of love between a man and a woman. In other words, the bible testifies that the passion of sexual desire is a fact of life and blessed by God.

            We see healthy sexual desire unfold in the opening pages of the bible. Unfortunately, when Adam sees Eve for the first time he says something, but the translation does not do Adam's words justice. When Adam first saw Eve he excitedly proclaimed, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Or as one seminary professor translated Adam's proclamation, "Wow, she's the one alright!" Another seminary professor translated Adam's proclamation as, "Hubba, Hubba!"

            Sexual desire is normal and healthy, but sexual desire can run amuck and when it does, it's called lust and lust is to the gift of sex what cancer is to a  cell. Let me repeat the dictionary meaning of the word one more time.  According to the dictionary lust is an intense, self-indulgent, unrestrained sexual craving and it's polar opposite, it's corresponding virtue is love.

            Lust wants to give and to take whereas love wants to give and share.

            Lust uses the other person whereas love seeks to enhance the other person.

            Lust treats the other person as an object whereas love desires a personal relationship.

            I came across a wonderful example of love as opposed to lust the other day.  A man named Todd Jones describes the time his mother received word that the lump in her breast was malignant and had spread to her lymph nodes. A radical mastectomy was required and performed. After the surgery Todd recounted that the entire family was gathered together in his mother's hospital room to discuss the possibility and procedure for rebuilding the breast that was removed. Todd says he will never forget what his father said to him that day. His father had been married to his mother for forty years. Taking him to side, his father said, "Todd, your mother is beautiful to me no matter what she looks like on the outside."

            That's love and there is a huge difference between lust and love. Love is the real thing that lasts, whereas lust is fleeting, shallow, having no true substance.

            As we prepare to come to the Lord's table, I want to share a couple of things.

            First, I want to share a concern. My concern is that lust has become more and more acceptable in our day and age and that concerns me, given the fact that our Church Fathers and Mothers called it deadly and Jesus said it's worth an eye and a hand to get rid of it. Of course, Jesus was using hyperbole here, but only to drive home his point of how serious he considered lust to be.

            In the 21st century lust has become a multi-billion dollar business. Advertisers use it to sell us everything from automobiles to dishwashers. Late night talk hosts use the sex scandal of the week as fodder for late night comedy shows. Apparently, such escapades these days are more funny than tragic.

            Ever watch The Bachelor on television? It begins with one bachelor and twenty- five beautiful women vying to be chosen by him as the one. In front of television cameras courtships take place while the bachelor and his harem of women are jetted here and there, to exotic spots where he, the bachelor, might develop a meaningful relationship with one of the women.

            The "bachelor," and by the way they have a female version of this called "The Bachelorette," often hook up with a few of the gals or the guys. They head off behind closed doors and spend the night together, or a part of the night together. I guess that's to test drive the equipment. Call it fantasy. Call it voyeurism. Call it hot television. Granted there is a level of romance to it with the goal being to find the person of your dreams, but there is a lot of lust going on in front of and behind the camera, and it sells. Television ratings for The Bachelor or The Bachelorette typically go through the roof.

            The trouble is twenty-four of those women end up going home in tears. They were not chosen and some of them go home after having been intimate with the bachelor. The women were hoping for love.  They wound up with something else.

            The deceased radio personality Paul Harvey told a story about how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is grisly, yet it offers some insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin.

            Harvey said, "First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood."

            "Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the Arctic night. So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!"

            If our society continues to treat lust as something that sells, as no big thing, it won't be long until we will find it dead in the snow.       

            So that's my concern. Lust is becoming more and more mainstream. Somehow The other thing I want to share before communion is this: there is a better way. Listen to how the Apostle Paul put it (I Corinthians 12:31-13:7).

 

            ... I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

            Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

           

            You have probably heard this passage at weddings. In that regard I love the story Harold Olds tells about this passage and a wedding he performed.  He was in the middle of reading I Corinthians 13 at a wedding and as soon as he finished reading the passage, the groom fainted. He went out cold and hit the floor! They got smelling salts and a cloth and got him conscious again and got him on his feet and finished the rest of the ceremony. All I can say is the kind of love Paul describes here can sound overwhelming. After all, this kind of love is difficult to achieve.

            A man went to a relationship conference, the presenter talked about I Corinthians 13, and suggested everyone ought to put there name in the place of the word "love." So the man went home and said to his wife, "I want to read you something. Frank is patient; Frank is kind; Frank is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude."

            She didn't even let him finish. She said, "Who are you trying to kid?"

            It's difficult to live up to his standard.

            There is only one way to read this passage, that is in addition to how the Apostle Paul originally wrote. It's not substituting our name for love, but God's name for love.  Such love is of God. God is patient. God is kind. God is not easily angered. God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

            So, when it comes to this more excellent way, we need to remember that only God can help us live it out. As God has loved us in Christ Jesus, let us learn to love one another. For life is not about grabbing, getting, and lusting. Life is about sharing, giving, and loving as Christ has loved us.

             Glory be to God. Amen.