Friday, February 3, 2017

Lust: A Loss of Identity

How does a lustful person view others, and himself or herself? We learn through the life of Judah, in the Bible, that there are two factors at play in lust that have to do with identity. In the heat of lust...

1. You lose your sense of other people’s identity. 

The Bible tells us in Genesis 38:12-16 that Judah’s wife dies. After Judah mourns for her, he goes on a sheep shearing trip to Timnath. Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, is informed of the trip. Tamar is childless and bereft of two husbands, the first two evil sons of Judah. And over the years, Tamar has become bitter that Judah has not kept his word to give her Shelah, his third son, as her husband. So Tamar has a plan to vindicate herself and get what she wants. She disguises herself, covering her face with a veil and sits in a place on the way to Timnath. This place, Enaim, was a place where one was likely to find cult prostitutes. Literally translated, the place Enaim meant “the door of eyes.” It is at “the door of eyes” that Judah’s lustful eyes are going to see Tamar but her identity will be veiled from him. The Bible says in Genesis 38:16 that Judah asks this prostitute by the road for a sexual favor because “he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.”

“Well,” you say, “of course he did not recognize her and thought she was a harlot, because she was all covered up.” But when he asks this woman who he thinks is a harlot for a sexual favor, doesn’t she respond with her voice and ask, “What will you give me that you may come into me?” (Genesis 38:16) She wants her pay. Should not Judah have recognized her voice then? No. Unable to see her face, and unable to discern who she is even by her voice, Judah in the heat of lust has lost his sense of the other person’s identity.

That’s one of the effects of lustful eyes over time: it veils from us who people really are. Pornography, for example, warps our minds and disables us from seeing men and women for who they really are. We lose the sense of their identity, and very soon, consumed by lust, who we are will also be lost, because secondly, in the heat of lust: 

2. You hand away your own identity (Gen 38:17-19) 

Judah promises Tamar a kid from his flock as her payment. But she asks for a pledge till the payment comes. And what should Judah give as a pledge? Tamar answers, “Your signet, your cord, and your staff,” all of which are tokens of his identity, like his ID card or driver’s license, telling the world who he is and what family he belonged to. Judah agrees, and in a moment of lust he hands away his identity to her for what he thinks will satisfy him and add to his identity.

In 2010, Tiger Woods was being interviewed by CNN after his extra marital affairs became public. The interviewer said to him, “You said… you felt entitled to what you were doing before. And at the same time, I'm wondering how you were able to rationalize that in your mind while it was going on. Woods responded, “Well, that's part of, you know, the problem I had…the way I was thinking was not correct. …I was rationalizing, I was denying, in total denial at times. I lied to myself, I lied to others. And just because I was winning golf tournaments doesn't mean a thing. The way I was thinking caused so much harm with the people that I love and care about the most on this planet.”1

When we attempt to rationalize greed and lust, we begin to lie to ourselves, forgetting who we are, and more importantly, Whose we are. We hand away everyone and everything that makes us who we are.

Being Restored: 

Have you handed away your identity to someone in a moment of lustful weakness? Or maybe you are planning on it. Maybe, on the other hand, you’ve had your identity stolen: spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Perhaps as a young person in a moment of sin outside of marriage, you gave up your sexuality—that facet of the personality that so defines who we are—and you are no longer a virgin. Now you live with the stamp of that past experience upon your identity, and wonder if there is hope. Here’s the truth and hope: although your biological virginity cannot be restored, your purity can. When you come to the cross of Christ for the forgiveness of sin, He makes you pure—as pure as He is. Your sin is transferred to Christ and His purity is granted to you. By this transfer your identity is made whole. In a world ravaged by lust and sin, our only hope for restoration to wholeness and purity is a relationship with the pure and holy one, Jesus Christ. 

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