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.
Thank you for your question.