Lust destroys men's vision. Godly living, though, brings healing.
"Masturbation will make you go blind."
It's an old wives tale that every boy has heard. Why the originator of this tale chose "blindness" is anyone's guess, but most young men have found out — through verifiable personal experience — that it just isn't true. Masturbation doesn't make you go blind.
But lust does.
The prevalence of pre-marital and extra-marital sex in this country is creating a spiritual blindness that is already negatively affecting women. Seeing women primarily as potential sex partners changes the way men view women; it affects what we value about them; it distorts the way we relate to them. Instead of treating them as if we were their brothers or fathers, we become sexual predators — mentally, if not in practice.
Here's what, as believers, godly men are supposed to be. Listen to this glorious picture from Isaiah 32:1-4:
Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
A holy man is a spiritual force, a "God oasis" in a world that needs spiritually strong people. When the winds of turmoil hit, such men are shelters. When the storms of life unleash their fury, such saints provide a refuge. When people are thirsty to be valued for who they are and for what God made them to be, holy men are like streams of water in the desert. By their words, actions and eyes, they affirm what God values most in a woman's worth. When the heat of temptation is tearing this world apart, godly men become like the shadow of a great rock.
Men, ask yourselves, are you a shelter and a refuge toward women, who are all but "hunted" by other males? Or have you become — mentally or in practice — one of the predators from whom they need protection?
Now, contrast the power of these lives with those whom godly men are called to influence. What happens when people find their way to these God oases?
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The mind of the rash will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
By the example of godly people, those who have lost their spiritual sensitivities can be awakened to a new way of looking at the world — and each other.
Jesus warned His disciples of those who are "spiritually blind":
Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear (Matthew 13:13-16).
What causes this blindness? What makes our eyes stop seeing? In the context of this verse, the presence of Jesus is what makes all the difference. How we see Him affects how we see everything — including women.
The Disintegrating Power of Evil
The Apostle Peter gives us both an encouragement and a warning when he assures us that we may "participate in the divine nature" — having the eyes of God, the ears of God, the heart/compassion of God — "so that you may escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:4).
The "warning" comes from the definition of this "corruption." One commentator describes it as "the disintegrating power of evil."
Think about that: Evil has a disintegrating power in our lives. It corrupts us. It affects the way we see, hear, feel and think. According to Peter, when we give ourselves over to evil, we begin to spiritually disintegrate.
To look at, or think about, or treat, any woman to whom you are not married, in a sexual manner, corrupts you. It has a disintegrating influence in your life; it blinds you to who that woman really is, and it will negatively affect your ability to relate to her in a holy and healthy manner.
What Matters Most
I was provoked recently while reading about the holy, female-honoring attitude of Gregory of Nyssa, a Cappadocian father from the fourth century. Gregory wrote an essay extolling his sister, Macrina. Macrina was a beautiful woman; some said the most beautiful woman in the land. Many men wanted to marry her, but Macrina chose to live a life of celibacy.
By the end of her life, her beauty long since faded, Macrina's wisdom astonished her brother, who, though he was a highly esteemed bishop, called Macrina his "teacher." In a day in which women weren't allowed to publish books or preach in public, an esteemed bishop calling a woman his "teacher" was a really big deal. In addition to Macrina's wisdom, people recalled her kindness, the sense of spiritual power that seemed to emanate from her; one man even recounted a physical healing his child received after being held by her.
Macrina was, by all accounts, "a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the storm, the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land." But I wonder if, today, she'd get that chance. I wonder if in today's climate her beauty would jeopardize her growth in godliness.
More than one woman has admitted to me that, growing up, she believed her looks were her most important aspect. As far as how she was treated, how well she was accepted, the influence she had over her peer group, the most valued trait among she and her peers, and therefore the one most sought after, was physical beauty. What a tragic waste of focus and spiritual energy!
And, sadly, that's what most males reinforce when we give way to sexual expression outside of marriage. Sex appeal becomes the first thing we notice when we scan a room; it causes us to engage in conversations with women who hold no other interest for us, and it also causes us to ignore interesting or godly women because their faces or their bodies don't captivate us. Since women want men to notice them, they often stoop to our level and seek to engage our attention, even if that means focusing on what is less important.
The Sheltering Impact of Marriage
One of the things I love about marriage, as God designed it, is that it can free us up from viewing women as potential sex objects, in which appearance is the most desirable trait. If I'm committed to not have sex before marriage, I won't relate to young women based on whether they would be good in bed. Who I spend my time with, and who I choose to get to know, won't be dictated by the size of their breasts or the color of their hair or the shape of their legs. And if I'm committed to my wife after marriage — mentally as well as physically — I won't undress women in my mind, I won't give stereotypically attractive women more attention than others because I'm not viewing them as potential sex objects. I'm able to really get to know them, and appreciate them, on multiple levels — their (non-sexual) passions in life, their wisdom and understanding, their spiritual insight, how God's "divine nature" is seen in them.
All of this helps me to appreciate and love — in a godly, brotherly way — the Macrinas of this world. I can honor a woman's intellect when I actually hear what she is saying instead of wondering what she might look like without wearing any clothes. I can appreciate a woman's spiritual gifting, her humility and God's presence in her life.
But the more I give way to lust, the less I will see of God; the disintegrating power of evil will draw me away from the noble and corrupt my perception. I will become, ironically, "blinded by sight."
How cruel we are as a society when we value most what women will lose the soonest, and how short-sighted we are when we diminish the wisdom, spiritual maturity and personal depth that can grow as a woman ages.
Guys, I might sound strange talking like this, since I'm admittedly quite a bit older (45) than the target age group I'm writing to. But I'm married to a wonderful 43-year-old woman, and I resent the fact that our culture would say she's becoming less desirable as a woman. In reality, she's growing in her inner beauty and character, and she's twice the woman she was in her early 20s when I married her.
I'm also raising two teenage girls. They have a relationship with God. They have particular spiritual gifts, wonderfully diverse personalities and dreams about what God will do with their lives. I resent anyone reducing them to the size of their bras or the numbers that pop up on the scale when they weigh themselves. Both of them are beautiful young women — but if that's the first thing you see, you are sadly blinded to their real worth. You're walking in the darkness. You're going to slam into spiritual walls.
Have your eyes stopped seeing women as God sees them? Do you realize the evil you're perpetuating when you let your eyes wound women instead of build them up? Are you willing to adopt as your standard of real manliness the divine image revealed in Jesus Christ, and see with His eyes, think with His mind, and feel with His heart? There is so much more fulfillment in allowing God to use you as a shelter from the wind, and a refuge from the storm, than there is in continually "hunting" women with your eyes. Don't allow your eternal destiny to be corrupted by something so pathetically small-minded as lust.
Freedom lies in Paul's words to Timothy: "Treat ... older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity" (1 Timothy 5:2).
Have you been blinded by your sight? Then regain it with purity, and discover a new joy from relating to women in an entirely new, and ultimately much more fulfilling, perspective: a shared passion for Christ.
Copyright 2007 Gary Thomas. All rights reserved.