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Reflection March, 13, 2016
Love and Lust Are Not the Same
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
This coming Sunday (March 13), I will be preaching on the final two deadly sins, Gluttony and Lust. This will conclude our preaching series on the Seven Deadly Sins. In this week’s Advance, I wish to present some thoughts on the deadly sin of Lust.
According to the New Dictionary of Spirituality, “The sin of lust often develops when there is a lack of human wholeness, a pace of life that is too hectic, and a lack of respect for self and others.” In other words, Lust comes calling when the pace of our lives leave us feeling shallow and empty. Lust unsheathes its claws when it finds us lacking the time required for developing relationships of depth and quality. Lust starts licking its lips when it senses that we need more and more stimulation to feel ourselves “alive.”
Lust is the Deadly Sin we all make fun of, thinking ourselves to be “modern” or “enlightened” regarding our own sexual expression. Who talks about Lust anymore? Only old and shriveled pastors - we imagine.
Who in their right mind can be against the sexual freedom that is now our demanded right? Aren’t we all now liberated? Shouldn’t everyone live together before marriage - even though statistics prove that living together before marriage leads to more divorce - not less divorce?
We would well remember what Henry Fairlie points out in The Seven Deadly Sins Today: “The fact that one may go to bed with a lot of people is, in itself, less Lust’s offense than the fact that one goes to bed with people for whom one does not care, for whom there is never any intention that one will care.”
Lust works its damage by making us pretend to care. We eagerly profess our love to the person we meet in a singles’ bar but we know we are lying. Lying lies at the core of Lust’s destructiveness (and at the core of many of the Seven Deadly Sins).
We profess love too easily and too often and, because of this, love becomes impossible for us. We lie in order to have someone to lie with - and so our integrity withers. Integrity is the foundation of any healthy spiritual life.
When our hearts hear us speaking the language of lies, our hearts become mute. If we are to become truly human, we must learn the heart’s true language. Such heart-language is impossible to hear when Lust bangs out its deadly din. Love is what heals and fills the healthy heart. Lust is what damages and distorts the weakened heart. We would well remember that much of what is done in the name of Love isn’t.
It might be helpful to ponder the following from Ronald Rolheiser: “Sex … is the most powerful of all fires, the best of all fires, the most dangerous of all fires, and the fire which, ultimately, lies at the base of everything, including the spiritual life ... Sex is not just like anything else, despite our culture‘s protest. Its fire is so powerful, so precious, so close to the heart and soul of a person, and so godly, that it either gives life or takes it away.” (From The Holy Longing)
Fairlie claims: “More than we care to admit, we have all become voyeurs.” We sit staring into our televisions and into our computers, seeking sexual stimulation to make us feel alive. Yet we know that such stimulation is a poor substitute for real relationships.
Lust, like all dangerous drugs, gives us the illusion of being alive, while sapping true life from us. We sit in our solitariness and wonder why we feel lonely. We sit watching pornography while wondering why there is such an emptiness to our lives.
Lust “empties us of our capacity for loyalty, until we become incapable of forming an enduring relationship with any one individual.” (Fairlie) Love is a difficult and strenuous journey but Lust makes us believe there are shortcuts to Love’s final destination.
No relationship can satisfy Lust’s cravings because Lust will not allow us the vulnerability required for Love’s fruitful flowering. Lust’s deadly power lies in its wanton willingness to trample on Love’s tender blooms.
Join us this Sunday when we will explore the twin predators of Gluttony and Lust. Both these beasts have sharp teeth!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor