I recently read a blog post that really got me to thinking about purity, modesty, and lust. The author of this blog shared an experience that he had recently had, and through that experience challenged the readers with the thought that no matter what a woman is wearing, a man is responsible for keeping his eyes and mind in control. I agree completely and totally with that concept. It frustrates me when I hear men (sometimes Christian ones) say things like, “There is nothing wrong with doing a little window shopping” or “It’s ok to look as long as you don’t touch.” Comments like that are absolute lies, and frankly have no place in the life of a Christian. No matter what a woman is wearing, it is still our responsibility as godly men to discipline our minds to look away when necessary, and to train our eyes about where and where not to look.
However, as I read this article, I was somewhat frustrated with the implied attitude toward immodestly dressed woman. Let me stop right here, and say that I know that I am about to head into some dangerous waters where there is a good possibility that I will offend some people. That is not at all my intention, but I do feel there are some issues in the realm of purity, modest and lust that we sometimes overlook or ignore.
Firstly, I think that sometimes we as Christians (both men and women) do not accurately understand and approach the reality of the situation that godly men all over the world face. Often times, in the realm of Christianity, we hear this phrase. “I am struggling with ___________ (insert sin here)” Too often, when people hear this phrase, their immediate reaction is one of judgment toward this person for “living in sin.” This holds true for the sin of lust, but also for the sin of lying, bitterness, wrath, foul language….the list could go on. Sometimes the “I’m struggling” phrase is thrown around casually, as a means for people to avoid taking responsibility for their sin, but other times I believe it is spoken in a very sincere reflection of the struggle they are facing.
When talking about this dark area of lust, there is often this implication that if a man is “struggling” with lust, that means that he is embracing his carnal desires and making no effort to change. Let me just say that struggling with a sin is absolutely not the same thing as embracing and accepting that sin. Dictionary.com defines struggle as, “to contend with an adversary or opposing force.” That perfectly describes what happens with godly men in regards to lust and the things in their minds. They must contend every day with this carnal sin nature, and must battle to keep their bodies and minds under submission. Even the Apostle Paul talks about the struggle it was to keep his body under submission. (I Cor. 9:25-27) In Romans 7, Paul talks about the frustration he faced, that the things he wanted to do, he didn’t end up doing, and that the things he didn’t want to do were what he found himself doing. There is no doubt about it, that every man in this world is confronted with the temptation of lust – some men embrace it and even revel in it, and some men struggle with it. For some the struggle is short until there is victory, for others it can be long and discouraging. I believe wholeheartedly that for men who are truly struggling with lust in their lives and who sincerely desire to win the victory, they MUST have accountability. The attitude we take toward that struggle though, sometimes makes men are afraid to get that accountability – they are afraid that they will be judged for this sin that they are STRUGGLING with. They desperately want to win the victory, but they are afraid that they will be looked down on or scorned for even having a difficulty in this area. I am not suggesting in any way that we coddle these men, or tell them that it is not a big deal, that lust is just part of being a guy, however, we must acknowledge that this is a sin that is common to man (I Cor. 10:13) It bothers me when somebody is truly struggling (contending with) a specific sin, whether it is lust, or anger, or foul language, and we take a pious and judgmental stance with them, saying that it is their problem, that they need to get right with God, or that they need to have more discipline in their lives. In reality, although we may not “struggle” with the exact same sins, I guarantee there is some other sin that we are, or should be struggling with and against.
Men, when you lust, it is your sin. Own it. Don’t make excuses, don’t blame it on the way that lady was dressed, don’t say the temptation was too great, don’t say that it is just part of your nature. It was your choice, end of story. However, the thought that has been bouncing around in my head, is this: Does the fact that a man is/should be responsible for his own thoughts/eyes allow a woman to dress however she wants? Often times I have heard the attitude expressed by ladies, that if what she wears tempts a man to lust he needs to:
a) Stop looking
b) Get his mind out of the gutter
c) That what she is wearing should not cause him to lust
d) That it is his problem, she looks good in these clothes and she isn’t going to change how she dresses for some pervert
e) All of the above.
Again, my intention is not to offend people, if I do I apologize, I am simply suggesting that perhaps we need to rethink our attitude toward how the way woman dress can impact a mans struggle with lust.
It is pretty well known that men are heavily influenced by physical and specifically visual attraction, and woman are heavily influenced by emotional attraction. As a married man, I know that to attract my wife, it isn’t primarily about looking good (lucky for me), but about doing things for her. To continue to woo and pursue her (which is yet another topic for another day) I must do things for her – write her notes, get her flowers, jewelry, cook her dinner, etc. As I was mulling over this concept of purity, modesty, and lust over the past couple days, a new scenario played out in my head. What if a man bought roses for a married woman (not his wife) and bought her jewelry, and cooked dinner for her, and wrote her notes? What if that man caused that married woman to fall in love with him? The two do not have a sexual relationship, but in their hearts they begin an “emotional affair.” The woman, who perhaps is married to a busy man who “doesn’t have time” for her or the kids, begins to wonder what it would be like to be married to this new man. She thinks often about how good it feels to be with someone who notices and appreciates her. Who is at fault? Many people would say that it is the fault of the man, because he enticed or seduced her, that he “played with her heart.” We would tend to sympathize with the woman, and although we would acknowledge her sin, we would be more quick to point the finger at the man and accuse him of seducing her. Is that really consistent though?
When we talk about this topic of modesty, lust and purity, we need to understand that clothing in and of itself is amoral – simply put that means that clothing is just fabric – it is neither good nor bad. What makes clothing good or bad is the context – perhaps what is printed on the clothing, where you are wearing that clothing, or who is going to see you in that clothing. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for everything, and, I believe that there is a time for even the most immodest of clothing, but that the time for that can ONLY be in the context of the privacy of marriage. In the same sense, there is nothing sinful about giving gifts of roses and jewelry and of writing notes. Roses, jewelry, paper, and ink are all amoral – neither good nor bad. Context is again the issue we must consider – Who did I give those roses to? What was on that note, and who did I write it to? Just as we would clearly recognize that it is wrong for a man who is not her husband to be giving a married woman gifts of flowers and jewelry, or writing romantic poetry, so we must also recognize that it is wrong for a woman to dress in such a way that would tempt a man to think about her as only a husband should. Just as we would (rightfully) give that man a share of the blame for causing that woman to be a part of an emotional affair, so we must also give immodestly dressed woman a share of the blame for causing that man to stumble – whether intentionally or unintentionally. Again, please understand, I am not giving men a pass for their lust, nor am I giving women a pass for becoming emotionally involved outside of marriage. I am however, saying that we need to take responsibility for the effect we have on others.
I Thessalonians 4:4 commands every one of us to “possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.” I believe that possessing your vessel is a two-fold process. Firstly, and obviously, you must be careful about what you allow to go into your vessel – you must guard yourself against impurity. For men, that definitely means being vigilante against lust, and guarding what thoughts we allow to enter our minds. For woman, it means to protect yourself from giving your heart to someone who is not your husband. However, I think possessing your vessel also means to be very careful about who you offer your vessel to. Men, don’t you dare take advantage of a woman’s emotions and play on them for your own selfish ends, offering her something you have no intention, nor right, to give her. Ladies, don’t tempt men with the way you cloth your bodies, just because you enjoy being noticed and feeling attractive, offering us a visual and mental picture that is only your husbands to see. We must possess our vessels, because there are men and women all around us, even in church, who are struggling with sin, and they desperately want to win the victory over it. When we don’t possess our vessel, and guard who we share it with, it just makes it all the more difficult for them to possess there vessel, and guard what they put in it.