Vance from North Carolina asks, “What is the difference between natural desire or attraction and lust?”
This can be a difficult distinction but to put it simply, the difference is a matter of the heart. Lust and attraction both view the beauty of God’s creation, but lust looks at it with selfish desire.
We know that Jesus warned against looking at a woman with lustful intentions in his heart in Matthew 5, comparing that thought to committing adultery. But not all natural attraction has to devolve into lust; in fact, God created natural desire to demonstrate the beauty of His creation.
To understand natural attraction, we must first identify God as the source of all beauty. He created a beautiful world to reflect His own beautiful nature. And because God made humanity distinctly in His image, our bodies, minds, and hearts reflect His beauty more than the rest of His creation.
We see God’s beauty in the scientific order of the universe; we see His beauty in the natural landscape of our earth; and yes, we see His beauty in the human form as well. But while lust looks at the human form and thinks, “how can I use this for my own pleasure,” natural beauty looks at God’s creation and offers praise and worship to Him.
There is an important caveat here: there is no excuse for watching pornography or human nudity and saying, “I am merely worshiping God by enjoying His creation of the human form.” These vile evils are completely separate from godly attraction and are distinctly prohibited in Scripture.
Godly attraction, particularly in the context of marriage, involves another aspect of the heart, which is humble service. Martial partners do not merely use each other to satisfy their own needs, but they serve each other, build each other up, and desire their partner to reach their full potential in service to God.
The last point I need to make is that healthy, godly attraction can only be expressed sexually in the context of marriage. Any sexual relations outside of marriage are inherently lustful, rather than godly. As explained above, sexual relations even inside marriage can be lustful if that martial relationship is not accompanied by selfless sacrifice, humble service, and a desire to build each other up. But, sexual desire, in order to be natural and godly, can only come through marriage.
Here's an article that goes a little deeper:
What is Lust? A Biblical Perspective on Desire
Desire is a natural part of the human experience. Attraction and passion are powerful emotions that can bring people together and fuel our relationships. However, when desire becomes distorted or excessive, it can lead to harmful behaviors and attitudes. In this article, we will explore the biblical concept of lust and examine how it differs from healthy desire.
According to the Bible, lust is a distorted and excessive form of desire that is driven by self-gratification rather than genuine love or affection. It is often associated with sexual desire, but it can also refer to an intense longing for material possessions, power, or status. Lust is not simply a physical attraction or a natural inclination, but a willful and deliberate indulgence in sinful desire.
One of the key passages in the Bible that deals with lust is Matthew 5:28, where Jesus says, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." This statement is often interpreted to mean that lust is not just about physical actions, but also about the attitudes and intentions of the heart.
The Bible also warns us about the dangers of lust in several other passages. In Galatians 5:16-17, Paul writes, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other." This passage highlights the fact that lust is a natural inclination of the flesh that can lead us away from God's will.
Another important passage on lust is 1 John 2:16, which says, "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world." This passage highlights the fact that lust is rooted in the worldly desires that can lead us astray from God's will and purpose for our lives.
So, how is lust different from healthy desire? While desire and attraction are natural and healthy parts of the human experience, lust involves a deliberate and excessive indulgence in sinful desire. Attraction is often based on positive qualities, such as kindness, intelligence, or humor, while lust is focused solely on physical gratification or self-gratification.
Another important difference between healthy desire and lust is that healthy desire is rooted in love and respect for others, while lust is often associated with objectification. When we indulge in lustful desires, we treat others as objects to be used for our own pleasure, rather than as individuals with their own dignity and worth. This can lead to harmful behaviors, such as sexual exploitation or emotional manipulation.
So, what can we do to overcome lust and cultivate healthy desire? The Bible offers several principles that can help us navigate our desires in a healthy and God-honoring way. We can seek God's will and guidance through prayer and Bible study, cultivate self-control through the power of the Holy Spirit, and treat others with kindness, respect, and empathy.
In conclusion, while desire and attraction are natural and healthy parts of the human experience, lust is a distorted and excessive form of desire that can lead to harmful behaviors and attitudes. By understanding the differences between lust and healthy desire and seeking to align our hearts and minds with God's will, we can overcome the harmful effects of lust and experience greater freedom and joy in our relationships and lives.