Adultery and lustful intent

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

For the second of six times, Jesus quotes from God’s commandments and explains the meaning of that commandment. In this case, the commandment prohibits adultery. Generally, adultery is defined as consenting sexual relations between two adults who are not married to each other. Some people would further add that, if neither of them is married, the sin is called fornication rather than adultery.

Jesus is not interested in quibbling over definitions. He quickly explains that more is involved in adultery than the act. Even the luring look is already a sin. When Jesus speaks of “lustful intent,” he distinguishes the temptation that might occur in one’s mind when one notices an attractive woman and the mind that seeks to be tempted, the mind that decides to look and remember the temptation.

Being tempted is no sin. Even Jesus was tempted. Every time he was tempted, Jesus said, “no.” Saying “yes” to temptation is a sin. Enjoying temptation, searching for temptation, clinging to temptation: these are sins.

To look at a woman—or a man, or a child; or a photograph, a movie, or a web site containing tempting images—for the purpose of lust is sin. Nothing loving exists in lust. Lust is the opposite of love. Love cares about another person and wants what is best for that person. Lust merely wants to be satisfied. Lust changes a person into an object, especially when that person is already captured in a photograph or movie or web site. Sadly, we have become accustomed to viewing people as objects for our entertainment—so much so that people in public places often gaze at strangers as if those strangers were there to provide entertainment.

We should control our minds. When we find ourselves tempted to use the image of a person for our private entertainment, we should say, “no.” Jesus saw every person, even strangers, as people to love, people to serve, people who had needs he was able to meet. When we imitate Jesus, we will also regard people as persons to love, never as objects to use.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we want to succeed, we cannot make ourselves pure. We need Christ’s forgiveness for our inappropriate thoughts and imaginings. We already possess this gift. With forgiveness comes the promise that we will see God. Because we will see God with our own eyes, we want to keep our eyes pure today. Because we will see God, we want to love and serve our neighbors rather than using our neighbors for our own purposes. J.