Women, you are not living in a dream world if you want to be married to a guy who doesn’t lust.
It is perfectly reasonable, and utterly biblical, to expect that your husband will not lust after other women–or at least will actively fight a battle with this temptation so that he will eventually win over it.
This week we’re dismantling the argument that “men are visually stimulated” necessarily means that “all men will lust” and that this is “every man’s battle”. That does so much damage to women’s self-esteem, and to men’s ability to withstand lust.
I know a lot of men who read this blog struggle with lust. I want you to know that this series is not meant to shame you–if anything, I hope this encourages you to know that your battle is one that can be won! This post is more of a rant against how we’ve talked about lust in churches, not a condemnation of the many men who are currently fighting the fight. My heart and prayers are with you!
Yesterday we saw how psychological studies do not actually say that lust is “every man’s battle”. Now let’s look at the Bible.
What does Scripture say about “Every Man’s Battle”?
The Bible does not talk about lust as if it’s any more common than any other sin.
In fact, the sin most commonly mentioned in Scripture is not lust at all but greed. Over and over again in the Old Testament God tells the Israelites that they are being punished because of the way they treated the poor. And the sin that is listed as the root of all other sins is not lust but pride.
The Bible does put sexual sins in a category of their own, but not because they’re more common or more sinful; simply because they affect us more.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
When lust is mentioned, it most often is in a list of sins:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:20-21, NIV)
Sometimes lists of sins don’t even specifically mention lust:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Lust, then, is not a special category of sin that men won’t be able to win victory over.
The Bible shows us that men can have perfectly platonic relationships with women
Scripture also shows that Jesus sought out platonic friendships with women (John 4); traveled with women; had great affection for the women who were with Him (John 20:11-18); and honoured those women (Mark 14:9). And never once did He have sexual feelings towards them. So if we ask “what would Jesus do?” in His relationships with women, the answer is simple. He would see the women around Him as people first; He would respect them and honour them; and He would not lust after them.
The apostles followed in His footsteps. Paul had many female friends and co-workers, and mentions them in his letters. And yet he’s quick to say that he’s content being single. So Paul defeated lust, and Jesus didn’t struggle with it.
They both demonstrated phileo love–the brotherly and sisterly love that we should all have for each other.
The Bible does not lay the blame for lust at a woman’s feet
In fact, Scripture does the exact opposite. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:28-29, NIV)
Jesus believed that the guilt for lust laid squarely at the feet of the guy who was lusting.
Ah, I can hear people say, but we are supposed to be sure not to cause anyone to stumble!
Yes, we certainly are, and I do believe that all of us should be respecting ourselves and each other by dressing with care. But when we make the assumption that men are basically helpless to withstand the pull of lust, then the only way to prevent men’s lust is for women to stop being so darn sexy.
But even if women in church dress better, that won’t solve the problem. Women in the world will still dress provocatively. This mentality says, “Best case scenario, your husband will ALSO want to have sex with you”.
The responsibility to overcome lust lies at the man’s feet
I remember reading Every Heart Restored, part of the Every Man’s Battle series, and being very depressed by it. The thesis seemed to be that guys could overcome lust–but only if women realized how hard the pull was and made themselves very readily available sexually, with enthusiasm.
But that can only be done in the context of a healthy, mutual relationship.
You cannot force a woman to be enthusiastic sexually to a guy who is sinning against her by lusting after other women. That completely negates her sex drive and denies her needs for security and love.
Plus, this argument does a weird blame-shifting thing. If men are lusting, then they are sinning against women. They are viewing them as sex objects rather than as whole people. Yet somehow, instead of recognizing women as the victims in this scenario, the argument paints men as the victims. Because lust is universal, the guy can’t do anything about it. It’s up to the woman to help him win this battle. And if she doesn’t, then it’s her fault if he sins. The victim has become the perpetrator.
In this line of thinking, too, him not sinning has become more important than her feeling loved and cherished. And her desire to feel cherished like that is seen as unrealistic anyway.
This view is entirely unbiblical. She cannot make him stop sinning; only he can do that. She can make it easier for him, yes. But her needs matter, too. And part of the problem with lust is that it treats sex as if it’s only physical, rather than about an intimate relationship. Defeating lust, then, involves learning to see sex as more than physical.
But you can’t turn sex into something that’s more than physical if you’re simultaneously telling women that their emotional needs don’t matter; only his physical ones do. Obligation sex is neither a good strategy to defeat lust nor a smart one when it comes to promoting great sex in marriage.
Here’s a better message about why it’s important to have sex in marriage.
The Bible tells us that Christian men can defeat lust
If we accept that every man battles lust for their whole life, then we are also accepting the fact that Christian men have one part of their life which will never be fully redeemed.
Does anyone else see a problem with that?
The New Testament is clear that when we come to know Christ, our characters should change.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 NIV)
We can often sound like we’re making a Christian argument about lust because we talk about it in terms of temptation and sin. But what if the way we’re talking about it is also denying God’s power in helping us get over that sin (see 2 Timothy 3:5)? The Bible doesn’t say, “Hopefully the women will cover up and you’ll be fine”–no, it says to put lust to death in your hearts or you will be punished!
I am not saying that no Christian man will struggle with lust; we are fallen creatures, and this side of heaven we will all struggle to some degree with all sins, and to a major degree with certain ones. We all have our own weaknesses, and lust is one of the most common one. But to say that every single man will not be able to look at a beautiful woman with cleavage showing without lust in his heart is also to say that Jesus doesn’t make a difference.
Some men will still have to fight the battle, yes. But when we start talking about how every single Christian man struggles with this always, we make it sound like it’s a battle that no man can ever win. If we want our husbands to win this battle, then we need to stop framing it as something that every single man will struggle with for the rest of their lives.
That’s not biblical. And it completely diminishes the power of sanctification of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. If you’re a guy struggling with lust, please understand that I am not trying to shame you. In fact, I want to empower you! I want you to know that this is a battle that you can win. You do not have to be a slave to lust; you can see women as complete human beings without the pull to objectify them.
To say that defeating lust is too lofty a goal for men, then, is simply wrong.
God wants men not to lust. God equips men not to lust. The Holy Spirit changes us so that we are no longer slaves to lust. Men don’t just have to avoid looking at women or avoid women altogether (as some book series recommend); hearts can honestly be changed so that they can view women as complete human beings without thoughts straying.
A real man does not lust. A real man sees women as Daughters of God, whole people who are more than just body parts.
And so to all of you women who are heartbroken because your husband stares at women at the beach; to all of you women who are so sad because your husband is always staring at women in restaurants; to all of you women who are so lonely because your husband chooses porn over you; I just want to say–there is nothing wrong with you.
What you are feeling is perfectly natural. You don’t have to get used to your husband lusting. You don’t have to just accept it as “the way men are”.
If your husband is truly doing battle with lust and is trying to win, then join his fight! Be glad that he wants to be more Christlike, that he is admitting he has a problem, and be part of the solution with him. But if your husband isn’t fighting, and is just telling you, “this is how men are”, and that the problem would be solved if women would just dress right, then I want you to know, your feelings are not wrong. It’s okay to be angry and hurt. And it’s okay to want more.
That’s what God created you for, and I’m so, so sorry that you don’t have that. And I’m even more sorry that some streams of the Christian church have told you that it’s not something you ever should have expected in the first place.
In this series:
Monday: Why “Men are Visual” Doesn’t Mean that All Men Lust (a closer look at the psychological research)
Tomorrow: 12 Ways to Help Christian Men Not Lust (they aren’t what you think!)
Thursday: A Suggestion for a Healthier Way to Talk About Lust and Sex
Friday: How to Get Away from the “Don’t Cause a Man to Sin” Modesty Message
I believe sex should be exciting and intimate for both parties, and if you want to see more about how to make that happen, I encourage you to check out my 31 Days to Great Sex challenge!
Let’s work towards awesome, intimate sex, not sex which objectifies and makes anyone feel guilty or ashamed.
Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.