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Is There a Difference between Noticing Someone is Attractive and Lust?

Laura Polk

Sometimes I think people outside the faith think we’re nuts. 

We take a topic, like attraction and lust, and draw an imaginary line in the sand. Then, we criticize those who cross it even if they had no idea it was even there. We somehow justify it by whatever additional regulations we put on it, beyond what God said, because we’ve inferred things from the Bible and assume we know the heart of people in the situation itself.

Is there a difference between noticing someone is attractive and lust?

Of course there is.

The truth behind this concept is flawed. In my opinion, it’s one of those Christian “struggles” that’s more indicative of the person asking the question than the person in the situation. It’s more of an indicator of being judgmental on our part. As if by pointing it out, we are lifting ourselves above another who doesn’t “get it.” But in God’s economy, lifting ourselves up actually places us at the bottom. And those who go on to live an honest life humbling themselves before Him, are lifted up to a place of honor in His eyes. 

We take a verse like Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and we debate the meaning of the word lust. We break it down to consider how lust begins (with noticing someone is attractive in some way) and then condemn the innocent action of noticing someone. 

Compiling attraction and lust in the same category is like compiling unattractiveness and hate in the same category. Do we hate something simply because we don’t find it attractive? No. So why is it assumed that we lust after something we find attractive?

We aren’t animals.

Seriously. God made us to be so much more than that. Designed after His own image. Complex and intricate. Interesting and beautiful. So individualized that there is literally not another one like us in the world. That’s incredible, don’t you think?

So it’s no surprise when we notice the incredible qualities of individual people. It’s no surprise that we are attracted to beauty, or something uniquely individual about someone else.

It’s also not automatically lust when we take notice.

Can we lust after something? Of course. But there is a certain amount of intention that comes with it. The verse itself mentions “lustful intent.” Lust is when we let our minds wander past mere attraction and begin to consider how that beauty might arouse sexual desire in us. Can you take an initial attraction to someone too far and allow your mind to wander to places that result in sin? Absolutely.

But on the other hand, we can also appreciate and be attracted to what is unique and lovely about someone without giving it another thought. Noticing something about them that piques your interest or makes you consider their desirability is a far cry from having an intense sexual desire for them. 

Like many things in life, it depends on where our hearts and mindsets lie.

If we accidentally mistype a web address and land on a porn site, is that sin? Or is it simply a mistake? If we stay on the site and begin to fantasize about someone who’s not our spouse, then yes. We chose to intentionally linger in something we innocently came upon.

So I challenge you, when you unintentionally cross a line and feel shame because of it, are you feeling that way because God is convicting you that you’ve crossed a line? Or are you feeling it because another believer is condemning you? 

All sin is ultimately between us and God. He will judge our hearts, our minds, and our actions. And He will put us on notice when we are sinning. It’s no deep mystery that we have to walk on eggshells around every topic in life. He lays down clear rules, we are intelligent enough to know when we’ve stepped out of line, and He will second that emotion through how the Holy Spirit acts within us.

Trying to trap people in legalistic viewpoints not only causes confusion amongst followers, but misleads those who are on the fence about our faith and trying to understand it so that they can begin a relationship with Christ. It’s taking a normal thing—simply noticing the beauty in someone—and shaming them for it. 

 

Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living throughThe Christian Single Mom on Facebook and to help them become financially stable through Single Mom Side Hustle. She is also continuing to pursue her dream of writing fiction as Laura Frances. Check out her latest book, Wide Plank Porches,follow her journey through her blog or get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.

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