The story of David and Bathsheba is one of the most enduring and insightful stories of the Bible. Perhaps one of the reasons is its moral complexity — a complexity unappreciated in part because most of us misunderstand what the Bible says about lust. And the text of 2 Samuel chapter 11 definitely describes David’s feelings for Bathsheba as lustful.
The question before us is whether David’s lust constituted a violation of the tenth commandment, the most oft-cited biblical admonition against lust(Exodus 20:17 and its counterpart in Deuteronomy 5:21).
In next month’s SHLC Newsletter, my column (“As It is Written”) deals with the common misperception that lust (especially that of a man for a woman) is sinful. It is not and next month’s column presents the case that lust does not figure in the calculus of David’s sins.
Here is a [pdf] preview of the article. However, this is a condensed version of a more detailed post published earlier.
Now, go and study,
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it is when we imagine having sex with that person that it becomes lust. Admiration and sexual attraction, on my view, are not lust. They can lead to lust, but they are not lust. Just like walking into a jewelry store can lead to jewelry lust, but that doesn’t mean we have to run away from jewelry stores. We learn to know what is ours and what isn’t but we can still admire and marvel at the beauty God makes.Even before we are with a partner, we have sexual desires for that person. That’s how we even begin to go on dates. The sexual attraction is there prior to being in a commitment with them. And it’s usually the sexual attraction that makes us feel so low when we’re rejected by someone that we found attractive. Sexual attraction aids us in love but is not the same as love.I think when we ask ourselves why lust hurts us we have to step back and examine why. On my view, all sin is a twisting of what is good. Stealing is a twisting of private property. Lying is a twisting of truth. Dishonoring parents is a twisting of family. Adultery is a twisting of marriage. So we have to ask ourselves what lust is twisting and how it damages us. We’ve already established, as you said, that it interrupts our relationship with God. I think it would do you well to continue to press into the question of how lust is damaging you what it does to your soul how it makes you smaller.Have you read the Red Lizard scene in C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce? If you find a copy of that book, thumb through it and find the Red Lizard scene. I think you’ll find it inspiring and helpful.As you develop these ideas, they will trickle down into your soul and your behavior will change. You will find yourself not merely resisting lust as a temptation but actually finding the temptation unattractive because you will see the twisting right way. You’ll see how it twists your view of the opposite sex, how it makes you objectify others, how it makes you feel out of control, how it ultimately doesn’t satisfy. You’ll see that in temptation and it won’t be appealing to you anymore. That’s the work of God as you work with him.I don’t think Satan’s temptations are strongest when we are strong. It’s the other way around. But he is very good at making us think we are strong, that we can stand up alone on our own legs for with that kind of pride comes a fall. To walk humbly knowing that in any moment I could fall to a wide variety of evils is to walk most strongly. For we walk in the strength of God.If you want to develop a more Christian view of sex, which I recommend as you piece together your struggle, is Lewis Smedes, Sex for Christians. It’s a smart book, but one of the best on Christian sexuality.Every Man’s Battle (and Every Young Man’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle, etc.) are also worth looking at. I’m not fans of a lot of things in those books as I feel a certain secret disdain for us as sexual creatures and our ability to be attractive to one another with objectifying one another. However, some of the tips they offer in not dwelling on temptation and learning to bounce the eyes are good starters to begin your journey. You may also want to consider xxxchurch.com for more helpful tips. Again, I don’t endorse all the philosophy, but there are some helpful tips.If you feel like you struggle all the time with this issue, I suggest finding a good Christian therapist/counselor to help you. Counselors are part of the church to help us get healthy. I’ve gone to two regularly in the past. Super helpful. They aren’t just for crazy people! You can bare your soul to him/her and they will help you ask the right questions on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You may find that what drives you to lust is not sexual desire as much as things from your past, your parents, hurts from others, etc. We often go to our additions to drown our hurts. When we identify those hurts, we start to find freedom for there is nothing left to drown.Those are some ideas if you want help finding a counselor in your area, let me know. Some will say just talk it over with someone else (like you’re doing here). Sometimes that helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Not everyone has the right and healthy perspective on sexuality and can leave you more confused than when you began. However, depending on how you struggle with lust, telling someone and talking about it with them may help. I still highly recommend a counselor. FWIW, I’m not big on accountability partners, as we usually change our behavior when others are always asking us about our behavior. But we change it out of fear and not love. And we usually don’t get to the core issues. We want to change the root, not just the fruit.Those are some more thoughts to chew on.