Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Guarding Our Hearts From Sexual Sin
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. Job 31:1NIV
Today we continue our study Question 138 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?” The second part of the answer states, “The duties required in the seventh commandment are… watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel….” Last week we considered how the Christian duty of chastity forbids all sexual activity, including thoughts and actions, which lie outside of the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Conversely, we saw that within the marriage relationship engaging in sexual behavior in thoughts and actions is being chaste. Today we examine our responsibility to guard ourselves and others from the temptation to unchaste thoughts and actions.
The first thing the Catechism mentions under the topic of what we are to guard in order to avoid unchastity entering our lives is our eyes. Surely we live in a day when there is more sexual temptation towards the eyes than ever before. In store windows, on billboards and bus boards, on the cover of mainstream magazines, books, tapes, CDs, software, on television shows, commercials, movies, and now on the computer, inappropriately pictured men and women including both “soft” and “hard” pornography are continually being set before our eyes. In addition, popular clothing styles and trends teach boys to walk around with their pants halfway below their buttocks and girls to wear shirts covering only half their chests. The word “prostitot” now appears in the dictionary, defined as “A prepubescent girl (generally 10-14 years of age) who emulates the overtly sexual fashions and attitudes of twenty something women such as pop stars,” (yourdictionary.com). Such emulation is possible because the largest clothing manufacturers are mass-producing sexually provocative clothing for children.
More than ever today we need men and women making Job’s covenant with their eyes, not to look on such things, for, as many examples from Scripture prove, once we begin to flirt with such temptation the battle is already lost. Likewise, the Catechism ends this section with our duty to make sure our own apparel is modest so that we are not being a stumbling block to our neighbors. There was an old word that used to express the sin of promoting or toying with sexual thoughts and desires: lasciviousness. The old Webster’s dictionary defines this word as “looseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; lustfulness; tendency to excite lust, and promote irregular indulgences.” Lascivious behavior culminates in human beings rutting around like senseless animals. At the end of Israel’s moral decline, Jeremiah describes the men as “lusty stallions, each one neighing after his neighbor’s wife,” (Jer. 5:8). Little did they realize that their destruction was imminent. We Americans must not be deceived. Such shameful decadence as we are commonly seeing in our nation cannot long continue in a culture before the moral rot causes it to collapse in on itself. Surely our days are being numbered.
Yet notice how the Catechism goes on to include all of the senses. Although we may need to be most watchful to guard our eyes, since that is where the lion’s share of temptation comes, we also need to guard our other senses. Songs, movies, television shows, videos, and radio programs which present sexually provocative sounds should be shunned by Christians. Likewise, lathering oneself in perfume for the purpose of stimulating sexual desires not in one’s spouse ought to be avoided. And outside of the marriage relationship, touching that purposely titillates or pushes the envelope can easily lead to fornication, adultery, and even grosser forms of sexual sin.
Thus, the Catechism wisely advocates temperance, or self-control. No human being is a slave to his feelings. No one HAS TO give in to that desire or temptation. We can exercise temperance. We can practice self-control and not allow ourselves to begin walking down the road to sexual sin. A great way to do this is by keeping chaste company. Make sure your friends are not practicing unchastity in their words, clothing, or behavior or you might be tempted to do so. Keep company with chaste people; and as you do, make sure you too are being chaste. And may our good God grant us a renewed sense of shame, repentance, and a love of purity, and chastity.