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What A Beautiful Tree! Is That Lust?

Lust is a strong craving or desire to possess something. A similar word by definition is covet. We are Christians. We should know what lust is, and what it isn't. Sometimes, however, it's easier to let others think for us rather than take the initiative to think things through for ourselves.

We are taught in Christian circles that lust and covetousness are sins, yet we don't always stop to weigh our motives to determine the difference between admiration, and a desire to possess the object of our admiration in an ungodly way.

The title of this article may seem a bit absurd, yet I hope to use it to make an important point. I like to view the beauty of God's creation as much as anyone. When I see a particularly stunning tree or mountain or landscape, there is great satisfaction in taking it all in and enjoying God's handiwork.

I am also a musician and as such, when I hear a well-performed work I derive a great deal of personal pleasure from the skill of the composer and the skill of the musicians who have recreated the composer's work.

I am a jeweler, as well. When a patron brings me an intricate piece of jewelry, I once again derive great pleasure from examining the piece in detail and admiring the workmanship of God and man.

Finally, I am a human being. As hard as I've tried to squelch it over the years, when I see or meet another human being who is either attractive or creative or intelligent or unique in some way (as we all are, you know), sometimes I find myself admiring that other person much like I would admire a landscape, or a musical composition, or a piece of jewelry. Yes, I know we have to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. I know it's not appropriate to examine people in the same way as an "object." Still, people are the jewels of God's creation, after all!

Let me carry this analogy a little further. Some jewels or gemstones are valued specifically for their color; others for their unusual cut; some for their unusual brilliance; and yet others for a particular phenomenon such as the play of color (opals). There are just a myriad of reasons to appreciate gemstones. Likewise, some people are just plain pleasing to look at. That doesn't mean in a sexual way, necessarily. We have all experienced a sense of admiration with the physiques of talented athletes. We even watch them for extended periods of times. This isn't leering or lust in and of itself. It could become that if the heart of the viewer is not right. The comparison can go on with regard to intelligence, or artistic ability, or any of the other facets of human beings which spur admiration.

To summarize briefly, just because someone admires a person for whatever reason it does not mean "lust" is occurring. I admire my wife of thirty years because she is beautiful in many ways. I have an intimate relationship with her which I will not have with any other human being. I can admire other people in a healthy way, as well.

And yes, that means I do admire others when I see them nude. Just because I admire what God has created does not mean I have an intense desire to possess them or be sexually intimate with them. The old adage which says if we look at a woman more than once then we have committed lust is simply not true. I would hope that others would value me enough to want to "see" me more than once or to "talk" to me more than once. Lust is a problem of the heart, not of the mind. Jesus told us to love others as ourselves. In order to do so we must build relationships with people. Seeing people in the flesh is part of building relationships. Also part of building relationships is respecting the boundaries of others, and not taking friendship beyond their comfort zone.

In closing, let me say that when I see another person, whether clothed or unclothed, I choose not to lust after that person. I am capable of lusting, but God has given me the freedom to live according to His will, something which enables "more" freedom than the bondage of sin.

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.

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