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Volume 17, Issue 5: Husbandry

Dealing With Lust

Douglas Wilson

One of the central duties that a husband has is that of being sexually devoted to his wife. Following the example of the bishop, he is to be a one-woman man (1 Tim. 3:2). This means that he is not to be gawking at other women in public places, is not to indulge himself with pornography on the Internet or elsewhere, is not to give free rein to his thoughts in daydreams, and so forth. He is not to rationalize a space for himself, a space in which he may misbehave.

So let us assume we are dealing with an honest Christian man, a man who is not kidding himself. He really wants to be faithful to his wife, body and mind. What is he to do with his remaining corruptions? How is he to understand the nature of the temptations that will come up against him?
The first thing he must do is recognize that this is a problem with sin, but it is not necessarily an indication that he (or his wife) is doing anything "wrong." Scripture teaches that even though we are transformed into new creatures in Christ, we must still deal with aspects of our being that are not yet transformed. Peter says that we are to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). Now this state of warfare is a given. Because God does not save us and then whisk us out of the world into heaven in one moment, we must learn what obedience looks like.
A related passage is found in Colossians. The Christians in that city are told to mortify their members which are on the earth, and those members include problems such as fornication, uncleanness, evil desire, and so on (Col. 3:5).
What this means that there are no one, two, three, zip solutions to the problem of lust. Our old man was crucified when we first came to Christ (Col. 3:3). Because this is true, we are to deal with definite, observable sins in our lives (Col. 3:5). We deal with them by killing them. This means that we can have genuine, ongoing victory in our lives. But it is not the kind of victory that can be accomplished and ignored. If you victoriously get all the weeds out of your garden, and then go away for a month, you will come back to weeds aplenty. So then, we have to put to death, in an on-going daily way, our remaining corruptions (Rom. 8:13). This is just another way of saying that we have to weed the garden daily.
At our conversion, God turned a weed patch into a garden. When we mortify our members which are on the earth, we uproot a weed that has grown up to our knee. And when we deal with the stirrings of sin daily, we are weeding the garden as part of our routine. The fact that we have to weed the garden does not mean that we are doing something wrong. This can be a help to the Christian wife—when her husband finds himself dealing with this kind of temptation daily, she does not have the right to be offended. He is not wronging her. She does have the right to be offended if she finds him late at night on the computer, growing his own little crop of weeds under a sun lamp.
The second thing that a conscientious husband needs to recognize is that sexual temptation is just part of the temptation. The Bible tells us that certain prohibitions make the prohibited thing that much more attractive (Rom. 3:20; 5:20). Put up a sign warning people not to touch the wet paint, and what happens? A lot of fingerprints.
In the same way, many men have stumbled into sexual sin because the height of the fence they built "around the law" stirs up in them a desire to climb the fence they built. This is not said in order to justify anything along the lines of "it is okay to lust a little." Rather the point is to show that "extra laws" to keep us away from sin usually do not have the effect of keeping us away from sin.
Suppose a husband and wife are watching the evening news (the kids are in bed), and the story that comes up is all about salacious material on television elsewhere and asks the question, "Is this kind of thing good for our nation's kids?" The answer is no, of course not, but in pursuit of the inquiry, the newscast helpfully shows us fifteen seconds of some strippers somewhere bumping and grinding away. There are two possible problems here, one of them obvious. If the husband is thinking something along the lines of, "Oh boy, oh boy," then he has obviously got some weeds in his garden to pull up. But the other problem is if the wife throws herself in front of the screen and the husband hides under the afghan. This can create the formal "understanding" between the two of them that "we are mighty pious" and have "high standards," but it can also have the effect of creating an allure for this sort of thing that it would not otherwise have. Then that allure can come back in a bad way later—to just one of them.
Too many wives think that husbands fall into lust the way a bowling ball falls to the ground when you drop it. But more is involved, and one of the things that we have to learn is how to face and resist our temptations like grown-ups.

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