“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:27-32 ESV)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer never married. He was engaged just prior to being arrested and sent to prison. He titles his response to this portion of the Sermon on the Mount “Woman” and that is a part of what Jesus is talking about. In the previous section Jesus addressed relationships through the lens of anger. Whatever motivates us, Jesus tells us that our desire to hurt another and allow a broken relationship to remain is wrong. Our desire for self-protection shifts our focus off God and onto self and evil wins.
In this section Jesus puts the focus on lust or the desire for self-gratification. Anger can turn violent and cause physical harm or death. Lust results in people being used and while they may not die the damage is no less severe. In my opinion, viewing pornography is not a victim-less crime. Real people were involved in creating the images being viewed. For anyone in a marriage relationship, the pursuit of self-gratification is the exact opposite of love whether pursued alone or with your marriage partner.
Jesus words are extreme because this is serious if we are desiring to love as Jesus loves. We may enter a relationship desiring to give all we have for the other person, but over time it just seems natural that our own needs demand our attention. Every time that happens, Jesus’ words and sacrifice call us to desire Him and find in Him the strength to bear whatever we sense we are lacking.
I don’t have any quick and easy solutions. Attempting to align my desires with Jesus’ desires has been a lifelong struggle. Sometimes I think I’m making progress and then something happens and I’m quickly reminded by either anger or lust that my focus is on me. When that happens I’m grateful that I know Jesus and that He wants me to experience a better way to live. His desire for us is that we live in loving community with Him and our brothers and sisters. His love for us gives us the strength and the desire to love on another rather than hurt or use one another.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-5:1 ESV)