An Open Letter to Married Men
November 13, 2013
A couple of days ago I was listening to the Book of Matthew on CD while driving around town. My attention wasn’t completely on what I was listening to. I could hear what was being read from God’s Word, but I wasn’t entirely focusing on it. All of a sudden, these words were as clear as day when they were spoken: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” ( Matthew 5:28)
It was strange. Why did that particular piece of scripture jump out at me so vividly? I’ve spent some time researching this verse and have gained some valuable insights that I would like to share.
I think it’s important to start out with defining what lust is. In this reference lust is the Greek word epithumeo, which means to long or desire for (rightfully or otherwise). In this context it’s used as a sexual desire which strongly violates God’s holy standards. A desire that is allowed to grow and become a controlling voice in your mind. It can also be referred to as having an immoral desire that would seek fulfillment if the opportunity arose. What Christ is condemning is not the sudden or improper thought that enters your mind. After my studies, I believe Christ is addressing the desire that you allow to stay and actually entertain or meditate on once it is placed there.
But where do these lustful images or thoughts come from? 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He does this by placing those images in our minds. He knows where we’re weak. He knows what entices us. James 1:14-15 says, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Knowing this, we need to focus on Jesus’ words in John 10:10. He reminds us that Satan’s ultimate plan is to steal, kill and destroy.
In conversations I’ve had with friends throughout the years, this topic of noticing the attractive qualities of someone other than our wives has come up. Something has been said along the lines of “I’m just admiring her beauty, I’m not lusting after her.” I’ll put my cards on the table. I’ve done this. I’ve done it with my friends. I’ve also said something very similar to my wife. Early in our marriage there was a CD I had purchased and we were listening to it one afternoon at home. A picture of the artist was on the cover of the CD. I made the observation in my head that the artist was attractive. Without thinking, I made the comment to my bride that I thought the picture of the singer was (exact word) “stunning.” I won’t forget the look that came over Sheila’s face. I am Sheila’s protector. She is my beloved. In an instant, with one single word I wounded my bride. I hurt her deeply. I had just put another woman on the pedestal that was only for her. Even if I wouldn’t have told Sheila my thought, I believe I was still betraying her in my thoughts. Men, our eyes, our focused attention, needs to be only for our brides.
We may just think and plan on simply admiring a woman’s beauty and it ending there, but the sinful desires within us will always try to distort that good intention.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” In my time of research for writing this, I came across something powerful that John Piper wrote on his site, DesiringGod.org. He said:
“Picture this. You have just seen a peek-a-boo blouse inviting further fantasy. You have five seconds. “No! Get out of my mind! God help me!” Now, immediately, demand of your mind - you can do this by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Demand of your mind to fix its gaze on Christ on the cross. Use all your fantasizing power to see his lacerated back. Thirty-nine lashes left little flesh intact. He heaves with his breath up and down against the rough vertical beam of the cross. Each breath puts splinters into the lacerations. The Lord gasps. From time to time he screams out with intolerable pain. He tries to pull away from the wood and the massive spokes through his wrist rip into the nerve endings and he screams again with agony and pushes up with his feet to give some relief to his wrists. But the bones and nerves in his pierced feet crush against each other with anguish and he screams again. There is no relief. His throat is raw from screaming and thirst. He loses his breath and thinks he is suffocating, and suddenly his body involuntarily gasps for air and all the injuries unite in pain. In torment, he forgets about the crown of two-inch thorns and throws his head back in desperation, only to hit one of the thorns perpendicular against the cross beam and drive it half an inch into his skull. His voice reaches a soprano pitch of pain and sobs break over his pain-wracked body as every cry brings more and more pain. Now, I am not thinking about the blouse any more. I am at Calvary. These two images are not compatible. If you will use the muscle of your brain to pursue - violently pursue with the muscle of your mind - images of Christ crucified with the same creative energy that you use to pursue sexual fantasies, you will kill them. But it must start in the first five seconds - and not give up.”
I’ve got to say, if I were to focus on the image of Christ on the cross. Hanging there as graphically as it was just described, if I were to really focus, I would definitely forget about the image that danced across my mind. I can’t help but notice that Satan tries to plant subtle, unholy and impure thoughts in our minds to lure us away from God’s plan for holiness in our lives. But we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can use our minds to remind us how much our Heavenly Father loves us. It makes me think of Genesis 50:20 when Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Satan tries to harm us, but we can use those times when he tries to lure us away to remind us to focus on God’s goodness and love for us.
I came across another method of what we call ‘bouncing’ when something that I shouldn’t see comes across my path. If I’m walking down the street and a woman comes into my path that is wearing something way too revealing, I look away. I’ll look at the sky or look at my bride while we’re walking. If we’re in the mall, and passing Victoria’s Secret, I’ll look away because I know where it is in the mall and am able to avoid it. I literally bounce my eyes away from whatever it is quickly. It’s actually pretty cool, our son and I will walk with our heads turned away from that store. It sends a message to my wife and my daughter that we value and respect them. It’s a very effective way to honor my bride and not fall into temptation.
God’s word is filled with warnings about sexual immorality. It seems like the book of Proverbs is filled with warnings against adultery and the like. I would encourage you to dive into this treasure chest of wisdom. One of my favorite scriptures in regards to purity is a simple one, but it speaks volumes to me. In Job 31:1 Job says “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” In my research Job didn’t make an actual covenant with his eyes. The covenant made here was made with God, against his eyes, which are regarded as an enemy likely to lead him astray.
If this is something you struggle with, I would encourage you to find someone to hold you accountable. Find someone who won’t be afraid to ask you the difficult questions. You need a person who will encourage you when you need them to. An accountability partner is someone you can call 24/7 when you need to pray, to confess your weakness, or to share your successes with as well. I have an accountability partner who keeps me on my toes. If and when I fail, I share it with him. If and when he fails, he shares it with me. We let each other know when our wives are out of town and we pray together that we wouldn’t fall into temptation.
Father, I thank you for the beauty you’ve created in our brides. I ask that you would grant us favor in continually allowing us to see our brides as you do. As godly husbands I pray that we are honoring to you and to our wives as we live in a fallen and dark world. It seems there are traps for our eyes around every corner. Father, it’s our desire to be men after your own heart. I commit my eyes, and what is before them, to you. Lord, I ask that you would guard our eyes. Place holy blinders on them when necessary. I pray that we are able to rejoice in the wife of our youth and be continually captivated by her love. Amen.