“Pleasure and wealth may not be seen as good and right if they are selfish, indulgent, or displeasing to the God who created the pleasure and the gains to begin with.”
Lust is the exploitation of a person’s vulnerability. It is the objectification of one of God’s children, viewing them as someone who can fulfill our own selfish desires. This contrasts strongly with true love, which is a mutual benefit and a mutual sacrifice between two people, not the benefit of one at the expense of another.
One of the areas that we see lust in action most clearly today is in the area of human trafficking. Women, men, and children are being sold everyday to become the supply to another’s lustful demand. Some “choose” to enter this industry out of desperation and some are taken by force but the foundational issue is clear: lust has begun to demand that people be offered for sexual pleasure without the need for deeper connection or commitment.
As people who may hear about or observe these issues from the outside without being directly involved in any way it can be difficult for us to relate to the victims of this objectification. We categorize them as sinful individuals who have chosen a life of fornication or as helpless victims to be pitied. We often forget that they are real people with their own real desires, dreams, and aspirations, which usually don’t look like the lives they are living. I know specifically with women that they hope to one day meet a man who will treat them like a queen, a prince charming who will be devoted to loving them and will cherish them for who they are, not merely for what they have to offer. A desire not unlike my own. They long to experience genuine love. They want to break out of the night after night cycle of playing pretend, offering the cheap shadow of love to someone who is too broken to pursue the real thing.
I think most people reading this now would agree that the sex industry is driven by lust, it’s no surprise. But what does that have to do with me? What does that have to do with you? After all, we aren’t the ones employing prostitutes or kidnapping vulnerable individuals. Now I might push some buttons, but I would like to suggest that any objectification of another for any purpose feeds into the culture of lust and ultimately even the issue of human trafficking.
This exploitation of an individual isn’t limited to the sexual. Looking at a man and seeing only the validation that a relationship with him can offer is objectifying him. Photographing a street child to post on Facebook so that you can be viewed as a “good Christian” is objectification. Connecting with someone because they will help you to get a job or to get connected with affluent people is objectifying them. Watching pornography is a widespread form of objectification. Any situation where you are fulfilling your own needs or desires at the expense of another individual is objectifying them. You are lusting after them because they are an easy target, a tool used to attain something you want without needing to invest time in relationship and without any intention of commitment.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves. 4 Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Whether we struggle with sexual sin or not, all of us have the option of looking at someone as an object to be utilized or as a uniquely designed child of God. When we objectify someone we de-humanize them and look at them through eyes completely contrary to those that the Father has for them. Many of us objectify and exploit others without even realizing it. Yet, this mindset is the kindling to the fire of lust that victimizes millions of people around the world.
I’ve seen mission trips become about getting the cutest picture with African babies so someones Facebook page could be blasted with praise of what they are doing to “help the starving children”. I’ve spoken with a prostitute whose heart was broken by Christians who helped her but shared her story and pictures with the worldwide web as they did. They exploited the very woman that they were trying to heal from exploitation. We can’t forget that the people we encounter every day, even those that we may be helping, are people worthy of even more dignity.
“…and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it”
1 Corinthians 12:23-24
Instead of feeding into the culture of lust we must choose to produce a culture of love. We must be the ambassadors that reflect Christ’s heart for others. We should be the first to give of ourselves to others without expecting anything from them in return. Jesus commands us to love Him first, then to love others. If we truly love Him we will love those He loves, those that He died for, those that are fashioned after Himself.
Can you imagine Jesus looking at us for what we had to offer Him?
I’m so grateful that my value doesn’t come from what I have to give to Him, instead it comes from how much He has given for me! Imagine what would happen if we gave our lives for others in the same way! Value would be distributed to each person we came into contact with. There would no longer be room for objectification or lust because people would have a revelation of and an experience with true love. The demand for sexual services will diminish as people realize that they have value and true love and relationship is possible.
The truth about lust and love is that they can’t coexist. You can’t lust after someone you genuinely love. It’s time for the Church to take it’s rightful place as the Bride of Christ, clothed in righteousness, and become a representation of God’s love to the world!