Russell Minick

Jesus deals with difficult issues.  We get interested, but…

we too often ask what is required to manage failure.  Jesus gives a better idea: learn to pursue success wisely.

lust? Resisting acting out desires is not the full story.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

What should a guy do when he sees a woman and thinks she is “hott”?  Should he go ahead and try to “know her” (in the biblical sense)?  No.  That is failure, not just according to “the Law”.  So… just refrain from trying to fully act on the desire?  At best, that is only partial success.

Righteousness, true success in living life as it is intended, includes actually getting better at responding appropriately to desire.  IF the issue were your eye, then gouge it out so you won’t be tempted by seeing. But if you still remember images of the “hott woman” you might have to cut your hand off (don’t ask me to explain that).

Why would cutting off avenues of lustful thinking be worth it?  Because the fires of Gehenna, (where children were sacrificed to pagan spirits back in the days that were so horrible God came up with severe laws for Israel to survive and not be like them)…  those Gehenna fires are worse than being blind and without your hand.  Just another cost/benefit analysis by Jesus the Brilliant.

So if self mutilation is not the purity plan for you, how about a more sensible option?  Realize that your heart/will is the real problem.  Self mutilation is a hyperbole used to show that the situation is serious and it isn’t ultimately a physical problem with a physical solution.  Yes, a man’s body is doing its job when it notices a women’s beauty.  His body tells him: “wow!”.  So the question is not, “how do I not notice that God made women beautiful?”.  That would be sad.

The question should be:

How should I appropriately process the observation that God made women beautiful?

The answer?  Praise God for beauty, and know the difference between what is your’s to enjoy and what is not your’s to enjoy.  If he is available, and she is available, his desire for her should motivate him to pursue her and make arrangements to enjoy her.  Sound a bit coarse?  It’s not intended to.  The brilliance is that when we are young immature, the physical beauty is what we are tempted to notice disproportionately.  But God designed the marriage covenant in such a way that even if we start off shallow, commitment in marriage goes way beyond the glory days of youthful beauty.  What that does is give people an incentive to grow up and love the whole person.  Why?  Because the covenant is for life, so finding ways to be enjoyable to one another, and not just physically, is wise.

divorce?

So what happens if one followed the attraction-> covenant path, and then things… aren’t working out?  “How do I get out of this?”

First, it would have been good to have listened to Meatloaf’s cautionary tale of passion and waiting for the end of time.  But, now you are tempted to get legal and religious advice on how to get divorced and still be a good person.

The problem is way too often in the questions we ask.

Jesus does say that Moses has included ways for divorce in the most tragic circumstances, and although debating exactly what those are/aren’t, we should get the main point:

Marriage from God is good and we should work very hard to see it flourish.

God is super-faithful, way beyond his own technical divorce laws for people with hardened hearts (Mt. 19:3-12).  The story of Hosea is the most shocking drama of infidelity, shame and reconciliation I’ve ever read.  It is so powerful that my wife and I used it as our understanding of covenant before we got married.  So, yes, for us, we made marriage vows which do not include a way out for divorce (even if one of us were as out of control as “Gomer the go-go priestess” [read Hosea!!].

But yes, divorce does happen, and yes, there are times when it is exceedingly complicated and painful and beyond anyone but God to fully see and sort all that has happened.  The important work should ideally be done before the marriage, to have a good and right covenant from the heart to God first and to the spouse second, and to the family and community third.  Then the ongoing work should continue relentlessly, each seeking to care for the other in appropriate ways.

And even then, marriage is still difficult.  But it is VERY GOOD!  And worth it.

And remarriage?  That is part of the mysterious clue Jesus leaves in Matthew 19, which is briefly mentioned in Mt. 5.  The devastation from a divorced marriage, that should have been for all of life is, massive.  When divorce happens, it is worth considering whether entering a new marriage covenant is best.  But don’t just rely on lawyers, even Bible-lawyers.  It isn’t about technicalities and laws, it is about facing the problems in our own hearts which contributed to the divorce, even if the other person was the tragic source of “most” of the problems.

God is the one who knows and to whom we will answer, so be still, be opened up to him and allow him to open you up to you.   Don’t decide too quickly, even if someone in your Sunday School/Life Bible Study/small group/missional collective/tribe {whatever} might try to tell you how it all works; even if they are very, very, confident.  Take some time to grieve and rethink God, love, redemption, hope, grace and covenant.

hype?

So how do we get people to believe us about lust, marriage…and other stuff?  Promise on the heavens?  Nope, that’s God’s.  Promise on the earth?  Nope, that’s God’s.  Promise on the focal point of your religious tribe(Jerusalem, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, Pastor Pope)?  No.  We can’t even spin effective hype of our own.  We are not self-existent and subsequently not adequately self-referential.

God made you.  Even you are his.

Q: So where do you go for credibility? A: Character.

Jesus is not being funny.  Unmixed is very helpful, to you and others.

“Yes” should mean “___”

& “__” should mean “no”.

The more consistent we are in what we say and do, the more believable we are.  Hype is what we resort to when we lack substance (or when we have a ridiculously generous marketing budget).  If you can’t afford marketing, there is always old fashioned integrity.

Summary: growing in actual righteousness is better than managing unrighteousness.

Luther said you can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.  No need to deny attraction.  Just make sure you proces beauty using your body+mind+heart/spirt/will in accordance with God’s direction.

If attraction leads toward marriage, make it a good covenant of God>spouse>community..  Then, do your part by being a person of integrity, including pursuing the things promised in your wedding vows.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

 

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