Like Jesus does several times in the Sermon on the Mount, he starts with a teaching the people are very familiar with. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery (Mt. 5:27).'” But Jesus wants to dive deeper to get at the heart of the law. He wants to address the seeds that can eventually grow into that problem–distorted and misdirected desires. In Greek, the word Jesus uses, epithuméo, is the word that shows up quite a bit in the NT. We can translate it as “lust” or “coveting” or simply desire (a neutral, sometimes good and holy longing). So how do we determine the difference? Context. What’s being discussed?
Why is this an important distinction? Christians have notoriously struggled to strike the right note with this issue of desire and sexual desire. We get into trouble if the pendulum swings too far either way. We don’t need to beat ourselves up, riddled with shame over God designed sexual desire any more than we would beat ourselves up over being hungry or thirsty. What we do have to do is aim our appetites as best we can in the right direction. We work to control our appetites instead of allowing them to control us.
This will not always be a quick or easy battle. We live in a time where feeding our more destructive and distorted desires is easier than ever. Portals for easily accessible and anonymously available pornography are carried in pockets and purses almost everywhere we go. If this is or has been a struggle for you, you are not alone. You are not a freak. You don’t have to live or hide in shame. You are never beyond the grace of God or the love and acceptance of this church. To paraphrase what Jesus says to the woman caught in adultery, “We do not condemn you.” But like Jesus also indicates, now is the time to aim to move away from this sin and towards a new way of life.