The Sermon on the Mount: Lust

Almost anything in the way of sexual relations is now regarded as correct as long as both parties consent to it… it is thought that sex is right with anyone you love in the sense of a “romantic” involvement. And on the other hand sex without romantic feelings is thought to be wrong even if the sexual partners are married. Often the “romantic love” in question turns out, upon examination, to be nothing more than precisely that fantasized lusting that Jesus called “adultery in the heart.” One is not in love but in lust, which glorifies itself as something deeper in order to have its way.

It is almost inconceivable today that the rightness or wrongness of sexual intercourse would have nothing whatsoever to do with what now passes for romantic love. Yet that is the biblical view generally: the rightness of sex is tied instead to a solemn and public covenant for life between two individuals, and sexual arousal and delight is a response to the gift of a uniquely personal intimacy with the whole person that each partners has conferred in enduring faithfulness upon the other.

Intimacy is the mutual mingling of souls who are taking each other into themselves to ever increasing depths. The truly erotic is the mingling of souls. Because we are free beings, intimacy cannot be passive or forced. And because we are extremely finite, it must be exclusive… The profound misunderstandings of the erotic that prevail today actually represent the inability of humanity in its current Western edition to give itself to others and receive them in abiding faithfulness. Personal relationship has been emptied out to the point where intimacy is impossible. Quite naturally, then, we say, “Why not?” when contemplating adultery. If there is nothing there to be broken, why worry about breaking it?

One of the most telling things about contemporary human beings is that they cannot find a reason for not committing adultery… We now keep hammering the sex button in the hope that a little intimacy might finally dribble out. In vain. For intimacy comes only within the framework of an individualized faithfulness within the kingdom of God.

– Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy


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