We’ve learned that eros—the longing—inside of us for Love was an intended part of our makeup. God created us in His image and, because of His communion of love in accordance with the Trinity, we are made for Love.
At the same time, he continuously warns us to guard our hearts from the perversion of Love: lurking lust and the sin of adultery.
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
Sounds pretty clear cut, right? But don’t misunderstand His point! Although we must guard our hearts from lust, Christ encourages us NOT to suppress our desires for Love…instead, he asks that we purify our hearts towards a holy desire.
The process of purification is not a strict set of standards. Christ does not want to impose laws on us… he wants to transform our hearts to “free us from the law” (Galations 5:18) and help our “eros” reach it’s true height, according to the Creator’s original plan.
(Theology of the Body is not only an invitation, but a “road map” to understanding what this means for each of us.)
As we’ve learned, our sexuality is a major part of God’s plan for humanity. As followers of Christ, we must mature and learn to distinguish between (1) what composes the riches of sexuality/sexual attraction and (2) what compels lust. This requires what God continuously calls us to perfect: our self control.
To grow in purity, we must train our hearts and minds to control our “passions.” It’s an act of the will.
Christopher West uses the example of exercising a muscle. The more one sacrifices bad habits and devotes themselves to training, the stronger that muscle becomes.
However, he rightly notes that only half the “training” comes from our own will. We MUST surrender our struggles to grace and let Christ give our desires a new, pure form. Only He can give us the power to love in God’s image.
It is NOT an easy process!
JPII writes, “Lust is not always plain and obvious; sometimes it’s concealed, so that it passes itself off as ‘love’… Does this mean we should distrust the human heart? No! We must remain in control of it.”
Sometimes lust looks a lot like love. Sometimes, it looks a lot like “fast food.” As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Christians often feel our only two options are fast food or “starvation.”
“Erotic love (as intended), like much in our culture today, has been completely defiled. And like many spiritual things, its original intention isn’t properly understood, resulting in rejection and a sense of disgrace… leading its new meaning to be rejected and disgraced by the very people God created it for: the Church. This is a mindset we must reverse.
In the confusion, we find ourselves at a crossroads: either (1) by a pure act of the will we become stoic by repressing our desires, condemning them as “bad” or unholy…OR… (2) once we realize that “starving ourselves” of our deepest desire is not possible, we give up the fight by “consuming” immediate gratification — in whatever form it takes. —> Can also be known as “fast food” love.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Matthew 16:24
A process like TAKING UP OUR CROSS (in this case, controlling our *given* desires) is not.going.to.be.easy.
Christopher West describes it as “emotionally and physically wrenching at times.”
Dying to lust—letting the Lord crucify impurity—is a birth of authentic love and a life as God intended it.
However! We know that God has prepared a banquet (an everlasting wedding feast, actually—see Revelation 19:7) for those who follow Him. So there’s no such thing as “starving ourselves” and fast food can be a thing of the past!
We pray that you’ll find peace and strength if you surrender your burdens to the Lord today. We can testify that you’ll actually lose nothing and gain everything (even though it feels like losing a lot of the time!).
Want more Theology of the Body?
We’re announcing a new introductory series in JUNE! Stay tuned for more information next week.
Thank you for reading!
The FRP Team