Does anyone else have a pit in your stomach?
I have a routine of stopping at the newspaper display to scan the headlines on my way into my local coffee shop. For the past two months, every time—I mean every single time—I’ve done so, at least one of the front page stories has been about someone (or many someone’s) manipulating, coercing, or forcing someone (or many someone’s) into sex.
The pit in my stomach is largely anger, but not for the reason you might think.
Yes, I’m mad that men sexually violate women and children, incredibly mad. And I’m mad at the amount of cover-up, deception, and collusion by those in power. It’s one thing to violate a human being sexually, but the lying that follows to protect the guilty adds another layer of wounding to the people who have already been so deeply wounded.
I’m angry for another reason, too.
I’m angry because while more and more people are raising their voices, shedding light on the problem, and calling for reform, as a culture we’re still feeding the problem. With one collective hand we hold up protest signs to kill the lion terrorizing the village, and with the other hand we slip it something from the fridge to keep it alive.
Maybe it’s because most don’t recognize the beast is one and the same as the kitten purring at our feet.
But at the end of the day, if we’re really serious about wanting to end sexual violence, we’re going to have to decide: Is sexuality about getting or is it about giving? In other words, is sexuality for lust or for love?
Lust is about using someone else’s body for my pleasure—my physical excitement, my sexual climax, my emotional comfort, me easing my loneliness, me feeling wanted, me feeling in control, me feeling powerful. All our conversations about consent don’t touch lust—our bent toward using others. Do we really think two people can’t use each other at the same time? It happens all the time. It happens in marriage all the time, for crying out loud. (Marriage is not a cure for lust. In some relationships, marriage just codifies lust.)
The really sad part is that so many people settle for lust (including mutually consensual use), thinking the lust they feel and do is love. Or they think the lust they feel will reveal whether love is present (e.g. if they enjoy the same things, if there’s “chemistry,” if the sex is good, etc.).
Love Himself weeps.
Love is radically different than lust. Love is about giving oneself for another’s good. Love means my wants, my desires, my needs submit to a higher calling. You. Not what you do, have done, or can do for me.
Love is concerned with you, yourself.
For Christians, this language should be familiar. It’s what all life is about, sexuality included: Love God and love others. Lay down your life for one, lay down your life for all—friend and foe alike.
This is what Jesus lived on the earth, what He’s still living on the earth in those willing to follow.
If you’re serious about ridding the world of the beast of sexual violence, stop putting milk out for the cat. Take up the call of self-sacrificing love and let it rout out lust in all its forms in your life.
Jesus, please reveal every place we see others as objects for our pleasure. Have mercy on us, Lord! We close our eyes to lust. Open them with Your love and help us to see others and to live for them as You do. Thank you, Jesus.
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