368: Why Christians Should Lust More
Over my past decade in the church, I’ve sat in literally hundreds of circles with other men. As we talk about our doubts, personal battles, and spiritual journeys, inevitably someone says that they “struggle with lust.”
In terms of the church’s euphemisms about pornography, I hear that one more than “my thought life,” “the computer,” and “clicking on links I shouldn’t.” Only the brave guys will confess a “porn addiction.” Fewer still will choke out a hurried “masturbation.”
In a world where sexual swear words surround us, we resort to coded labels. While our supermarket checkout lanes grow fifty shades grayer, we Christian men often cower to speak candidly about sex. While the rest of the world embraces sexual freedom, we are ashamed of our sexuality. That needs to stop. Real progress requires straight talk, and confession benefits from candor.
In light of that, I want to get something straight about sexual lust: it’s not a sin.
Hear me out. You can look this up yourself: the Bible tells us not to lust after people to whom we aren’t married. It doesn’t say to avoid sexual lust altogether. It would be unfair if it did—because God built that into us. The Song of Solomon is brimming with lust.
This is bigger than semantics. As with every other appetite, God gave us something wonderful that proves amazing only if enjoyed within his parameters. The Bible speaks highly of sleep and rest but condemns people who extend that to laziness. Scripture writers wax poetic about food as delicacies, while other passages hold harsh precautions about overeating and gluttony. The same good-within-the-boundaries approach goes for alcohol, exercise, prayer—and sex.
The New Testament actually has very few guidelines for our sexuality. Basically, anything goes as long as its with your wife, while you’re married to her, and mutually consensual.
So, married guys, it’s okay to lust, to marinate in fantasies, to look at pornographic photos or videos of your wife, and to write explicit notes for her. Anything that directs your sexual energy toward the “wife of your youth” can be sanctified. Even masturbation. Just ask couples separated because of extended travel, military duty, medical recovery, hormonal imbalances, or misaligned work schedules.
To make sure you’re abiding by the spirit of holy monogamy, ask yourself these questions:
1) Does any part of what I’m doing direct energy to any woman other than my wife?
2) Am I hiding any sexual activity from my wife?
3) Does this idea or practice create unrealistic expectations during sexual encounters with her?
4) Am I doing this because I’m too lazy to pursue my wife?
If you answer “yes” to any of these, don’t do it—whatever the it is. That goes for anything from who you follow on Instagram to what’s saved on your phone, from who you take to dinner to what you do in a hotel shower, from the couples you invite on vacation with you to whether or not you drink alcohol. Different men and different couples will need different guardrails.
We are sexual beings who need to be vigilant against intruders, temptation, and rationalization. To that end, we need to be having those awkward-but-intimate conversations with our wives. [I highly recommend this tool for some of those conversations.] We need to be praying with and for our wives to unite our hearts. We need to be pursuing their hearts, not just their bodies.
If anything, Christian couples need to lust more. The more we’re into each other, the less temptation will entice us away from faithfulness. Biochemically, the more we connect sexually, the more bonded we feel to our spouses. We should be living out our own poetic song of songs. Our vibrant-but-discreet sex life can end generational sins, heal emotional scars, comfort in times of loss, and reclaim an appetite for the One who gave it to us. In that small way, we can live out the gospel by how we lust—not whether we lust.
For a frank discussion by Christian counselors about reframing marital masturbation, check out this podcast.