Two thousand years ago Jesus delivered a sermon introducing the Christian life. In it Jesus spoke about the Law, loving our enemies, how to pray, judging and…sex.
Pornography and other sexual sin is not a new thing in our culture. One could make the argument that the internet has made it more prevalent, but it certainly isn’t a problem unique to this generation.
Jesus words about sexual sin still ring true to this very day. Here are three truths Jesus taught us about sexual sin.
The Starting Line (Matthew 5:27-28)
The first truth Jesus tells us about sexual sin is that it’s not the finish line that matters, but the starting line.
“You have heard that it was said” is a phrase we see six times throughout the course of Matthew 5. This is how Jesus introduces each subject, or contrast in chapter 5. This phrase represents the Pharisees interpretation of the Law that they taught to other people. Jesus followed up this statement by stating the true interpretation of the Law beginning with “but I say to you”.
In this particular passage Jesus is discussing the Law “you shall not commit adultery.” The Pharisees interpreted this passage by saying “it’s against the Law to commit adultery, BUT it’s not against the law to do everything up to the point of adultery.” In other words, you can go up to the line of adultery, but don’t cross it. Jesus turns this belief upside down by stating “everyone who looks at a woman…” The Pharisees dealt with the line, Jesus dealt with the heart.
Those caught up in pornography will often seek to justify their sin. It’s not uncommon to stop and think “well at least I’m not actually sleeping with someone.” This line of reasoning is what got the Pharisees to their interpretation. When we say things like this what we’re really doing is looking at our sin and trying to determine if we’ve “crossed the line” yet. With Jesus, when we’ve started walking toward the line, we’ve already crossed it.
Begins With Your Heart (Matthew 5:28)
The second truth Jesus teaches us about sexual sin is that it begins with our heart, not our body.
Pornography is often not the problem, but a perceived solution to a greater problem. Jesus says as much in this section here. Note that Jesus says the problem of lust isn’t looking but looking “with lustful intent.” Accidentally seeing the Victoria’s Secret commercial on TV while you’re changing the channel is not the same as watching the commercial and allowing the thoughts of naked women to flood your mind. One is accidental; the other is purposeful in the hopes of satisfying some lustful desire.
Jesus says that this looking with the intent to lust is a heart problem. You have already committed adultery with her in your heart he says. Jesus’ warning about sexual sin bleeds into the fantasy side of things. Lustful looking wasn’t an issue in the Pharisees mind because no physical action had taken place, but Jesus goes so far to suggest that even thinking about or fantasizing about someone is just as bad as the physical action.
The world of pornography is one of fantasy. The sex is all a façade masquerading itself as “love” for the sake of making money. The people involved push their humanity aside for a moment and become props to be used. It’s not real, and our indulgence in these fantasies is exactly what Jesus was talking about here. We may not be acting out on it physically, but the fantasy itself is enough to condemn us.
It’s Not Worth It (Matthew 5:29-20)
The third truth Jesus teaches us about sexual sin is that it’s just not worth it.
This section of Jesus’ sermon should be read less like a sentencing of judgment and more like an impassioned plea. Jesus doesn’t get any satisfaction out of telling this audience that lust will condemn them. He wants them to repent, and to see that the fleeting pleasures and sexual fantasies that exist in our head are not worth the eternal torment of hell.
This section of Jesus’ sermon ends with a challenge: “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better than you lose one of your members than that you whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Is Jesus advocating literally removing limbs in order to avoid falling into sexual sin? I don’t think so. Jesus isn’t advocating physical removal of limbs anymore than he was advocating that physical adultery took place with lustful looking. Looking with lustful intent is so bad that it’s likened to the actual physical act of adultery. In the same way our pursuit to be completely unstained by sexual sin should be likened to physically removing an eye or a hand if that’s what it takes.
This passage is encouraging us to put up website blockers to block out pornographic websites. It challenges us to be open and get an accountability partner to help us bear the weight of our sexual sin. It pushes us to do something simple like having a joint husband/wife Facebook page to avoid getting attached to an old flame. The point of this passage is not mutilation of our body, but transformation of our heart. Hell isn’t worth even the greatest physical pleasures on earth.
Sexual sin has always been and will always be a problem in any society and these three truths will still be true no matter the culture or generation. Sexual sin needs to be avoided, begins in the heart and isn’t worth it. If you are caught up in a sexual sin, get help. Talk to your elders, your preacher, a counselor, a friend or us (firstname.lastname@example.org). Find someplace to get help, and remember these truths that Jesus taught us. Pornography, lust, adultery, etc. may be hard battles to fight, but the life with Jesus is worth it.
 Lust simply means to have a “strong desire or longing for” something