This is a guest post by Heath Lambert (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). Lambert serves as Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling at SBTS and as the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). Lambert is also the author of several books, including Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace.
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When you look at a woman, what do you see?
Jesus is concerned that when we look at a woman, we will be motivated by lust, and only see an object of sinful sexual desire. That is why he tells us, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28).
Paul develops this a bit further in 1 Thessalonians as he instructs Christians to abstain from sexual immorality. He says, “Each one of you [should] know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter” (1 Thess 4:4-6).
Paul repeats Jesus’ prohibition against lust, and then expands it. He identifies one of the problems of lust as an act of transgression and wrongdoing against another person. Lust is an act of hatred that transgresses and wrongs those we are supposed to love.
When you look at a woman to lust it requires you to lie to yourself about the woman who is the object of your illicit desire. In order to lust you have to strip away every part of her humanity except her physical appearance. Lust requires you to isolate a woman from every other context of life except the sexual one.
In order to look at women in love, we need to see them as they really are: real people created in the image of God as whole persons, and existing in multiple relationships. In this brief post I want to fuel the fight against lust by giving you some concrete realities to fight to see when you look at a woman. In our sinful flesh it can be easy to look at a woman with lust and see an object of sexual desire. The Bible calls us to look at women in love and see a person. Here are three things you should pray to see in women as you put off lust and put on love.
1. Pray that you would not see an object of lust, but a member of a family.
Depending on her age, the woman you’re tempted to lust after may have a husband and kids. To those people she is way more than the sexual desire you’re tempted to reduce her to. She is a source of joy and strength. Your lust threatens that family. The woman you’re tempted to lust after certainly has a mother and father. Those parents love her, they cared for her, perhaps they prayed for her. To them, she is a tremendous source of happiness and hope. Your lust undercuts their plans for a joyful, pure, and Christ-honoring life. It will make it much harder to lust when you pray to see these realities about a woman.
2. Pray that you would not see an object of lust, but a woman in need of care.
All of us walk through life with trouble and are in need of help. We have physical ailments—some of the chronic, we have conflict at home, relatives with terminal medical diagnoses, we are under tremendous pressure at work, we are broke, we have been sexually assaulted. The women you’re tempted to lust after have some of these problems and many more. Lust doesn’t see those problems, because lust doesn’t care. Lust only cares about the sexual pleasure a woman might bring. As Christians with a call to love we should plead for grace to see more than this. We’re called to move towards women with the love of Christ and help them, rather than consume them for our sexual ends.
3. Pray that you would not see an object of lust, but a woman who will live forever.
That woman you’re looking at will exist forever. The only question is her destination. There are two choices: She will exist forever in heaven with Christ in a state of incomprehensible glory and joy, or she will exist forever in hell apart from Christ in state of unimaginable torment. You can’t know for sure which of these two will be her destination, but either one undercuts lust. It undercuts lust to look beyond the physical appearance of a Christian woman and see a woman who will exist with you shining as brightly as the sun as she reflects the overflowing glory of Christ. It also undercuts lust to look beyond the physical appearance of an unbeliever and see the face of a woman who will spend an eternity of forevers weeping and gnashing her teeth in the place where the worm never dies. Either of these two visions should motivate you to move towards this woman with the love that points her more fully to Christ.
So when you look at a woman, what do you see? We often see a woman who is the object of our lust. We need to see a woman who is the object of our love. The truth of the gospel is that we can never try hard enough to love people. We need the grace of Jesus to supply what God commands. We need to trust Jesus Christ and ask for his forgiving grace to turn away from lust, and his empowering grace to turn towards love.
I pray that, as you grow in the grace of Jesus Christ, you would come to see more of these three realities when you look at women.