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On Lust

The question has been raised, "How do we deal with lust in a nude environment?" As is often the case, we should first determine whether this is the right question to ask. And so, let us first look at lust alone. Then we can consider the effects of a nude environment.

One question we can ask about lust is, "What is it, exactly?" Is lust the desire to possess or long to partake in something? Or is lust for something determined by degree or duration? Does lust long to fulfill a simple need or only a forbidden need? Questions, questions, questions.

My Bible's dictionary defines lust as an "inordinate desire or craving." Likewise, the word covet is "to inordinately desire unjust gain or another's property."[1] Webster defines lust: "1: sexual desire often to an intense or unrestrained degree; 2: an intense longing."[2] In my opinion, when searching Scripture on this topic, to lust and to covet are generally synonymous. The first well-known reference to coveting is found in the Ten Commandments: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20.17, NIV unless otherwise noted). Clearly, coveting encompasses more than sexual desire.

Scripture tells us we ought to seek certain things and shun others. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6.33). "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones" (Proverbs 3.7-8). Scripture tells us that there are no limits imposed on some things, but others must be pursued in moderation. "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" (Matthew 22.37). "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5.18, KJV).

So, for the purpose of this discussion we will consider lust to be synonymous with covetousness. Lust must be inordinate or prolonged and will lead to a wrongful or sinful act.

I think it is also helpful to spend a little time talking about the "S" word. Of course I am referring to sin, not sex. As Christians, we recognize that sin is an inevitable part of our existence. We have sinned; we do sin; we will sin. And Scripture is clear that sin separates us from God. Scripture is also clear that Jesus Christ dealt with the sin problem on our behalf. We are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus compared lusting in one's heart to physical adultery in Matthew 5.28, He was emphasizing the serious way God views the heart's attitude. And so, when we consider lust as sin, we must treat lust in the same way we treat any sin we commit. First, we recognize that as humans we will sin. Second, we confess our sin to God and accept His forgiveness. Third, we accept the truth that by God we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3.18) so that we may sin less by the power of the Holy Spirit living through us.

Let's briefly consider each of these three points with respect to lust. First, men are likely to lust. In the context of this discussion, they will lust after women. Any man can affirm that a woman's attire or lack thereof is secondary to the power of his imagination. During the Victorian period (1800's in Europe), where women were clothed from neck to ankle to protect men against sexual desires, "there were more prostitutes per capita roaming the streets of London...than in any other period of that city's history."[3]

Second, the example given by "D." in his letter ("Nudism and understanding lust," Issue 53, p. 9) is a powerful testimony about how to deal with lust. He recognized his lust as sin and confessed it to God. "I have numerous times turned this over to the Lord," he said.

Third, as humans we have no inherent power to change our sin nature. We must rely upon God to live His holy life through us. I believe "D." strongly implied this in his confession and his subsequent description of two levels of temptation. Clearly Jesus was tempted by Satan and did not sin. I personally agree with "D." in that the consideration of the consequences of a temptation is not in itself sin.

Finally, lets look at Jesus' discussion on lust as recorded in Matthew 5.27-32. The discussion presented here is based on the view of Kay Arthur in her book Lord, I'm Torn Between Two Masters.[4] Jesus is explaining that the intent of God's command, "You shall not commit adultery," is to keep the heart sexually pure. Jesus says, "everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (NASB, emphasis mine).

It is important that "to lust for her" modifies "looks on a woman." This implies that there are other ways to "look on a woman." May I suggest that a man or woman can "look on a woman" to appreciate her beauty, or to respect her as an individual, or to praise God for a close friend, or to marvel at God's intricate creation.

Kay Arthur argues that "The verb look is in the present tense in the Greek, implying a continuous or habitual action. Jesus is saying if you keep on looking at a woman or a man, to lust after that woman or man, you have committed adultery with that person in your heart." Kay Arthur is not (to the best of my knowledge) a nudist. Nudity is not implied in this passage. We do not need nudity to lust. Humans are quite capable of lusting after a fully clothed person. Indeed, this is how many office affairs begin.

Naturists habitually point out that clothing is irrelevant to how we relate socially. The experience of lusting less in a nude society can often be read within the pages of Fig Leaf Forum. Only the individual can determine if lusting will be more prevalent in a clothed or nude society. But the important point is that when we do lust after someone, we need to take radical action. Taking great liberty in paraphrasing Matthew 5.29, "And if being in a nude environment makes you stumble, leave and never come back; for it is better to forgo the pleasures of naturism than for you to suffer the torments of hell."

Do not misunderstand me. I advocate naturism. But living a Godly life MUST take priority over the pleasure and freedom of a nude lifestyle. Paraphrasing Matthew 5.29 for the textile Christian, one could just as easily read, "And if singing in the choir makes you stumble (because of that cute soprano in front of you), quit and never sing again...."

Jesus is proposing radical solutions to a major sin problem. God made us to be attracted to the opposite sex. It happens whether clothed or not. Our responsibility, whether clothed or not, is to respond to sin in a radical and immediate way. Treat sin seriously! God did! Run to God at the first hint of sin. Confess it, accept God's forgiveness, ask for His Spirit's power to overcome it, and flee from it if necessary.

You are God's precious treasure, purchased with the blood of Jesus. Whether clothed or not, we ought to live as children of the holy King. Enjoy your freedom in Christ and be a Godly testimony of that freedom.

[1] Dictionary/Concordance, Holy Bible, New Living Translation, 1996, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., pp. 985, 969.
[2] The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Pocket Books, 1974, p. 417.
[3] Aileen Goodson, Ph.D., Therapy, Nudity & Joy, Elysium Growth Press, 1991, p. 155.
[4] Kay Arthur, Lord, I'm Torn Between Two Masters, Multnomah Books, 1996, pp. 83-92.

Editor's Note: Though the issue of lust had previously been discussed in Fig Leaf Forum, the need to revisit this important topic was heightened as a result of the emphasis it was given by the church of Christ preacher in the debate published on this Web site and in Issue 55/56 of the newsletter. This article is from Issue 59 and was written by a Fig Leaf Forum subscriber.

Next article: The Problem With Lust

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