One Long Look
Since many Christians would agree that the second look is problematic, if not sinful, let's be forthright about that first look. If its only natural that men have visual sexual attraction to women, then why not allow that first look to last as long as possible? We don't want to turn away and look back, because that gets us into messy questions about lust and coveting and sin issues. But that first look, if its natural, should be allowed to last as long as possible – right?
Well, the argument goes, of course not. If you look too long, then you are simply allowing yourself to fall into the sin of lust. The long look must, according to this argument, devolve into lust at some point as a man begins to either think wrong thoughts or have wrong attitudes towards the woman.
So, when does the first look, however long it lasts, deteriorate into the second look. Not an easy question. Is it when the man begins to think sexually about the woman? Is it when he first notices that she is pleasing to the eye? Is it the first stir of adrenaline?
More troubling to me are the means that men employ to avoid the second look. There is the 'look away,' ‘the stare ahead,’ ‘the don’t-look-at-anything-but-her-eyes,’ and a host of others. OK…so the sarcasm is probably not necessary. And I do recognize that there is some benefit to making a covenant with our eyes not to look lustfully. However, I think that if this is our only protection against lust, we are in for some deep trouble.
Here’s why. Think of the lustful looks as a top level problem. We become convicted of this top level problem and realize that we need to do something about it. So, we look for the underlying cause. In the case of lustfully looking at a woman, we recognize that the underlying problem is that we are looking at the woman which allows us to think lustful thoughts. So, we avoid looking at the woman.
But if this is as far as we go, then before long we find ourselves avoiding looking at any women. That simply won’t do, so we find ourselves saying that we need to look at women but not feel our feelings. That’s doomed to fail and so we fall back on ‘the first look is natural and the second is lust.’ Not a bad proposition.
But we haven’t gone deep enough. We said the first level is the actual sin of lust and the cause of it – the second level - is our looking at women. However, I would suggest that there is a third level that we rarely desire to go to. It is the heart issue. And it is here that God desires us to change.
You see, it is possible to be convicted of the sin of lusting after women and to avoid looking at women lustfully (or, at least, I’m assuming that the authors of the books that state this have mastered this ability) but without dealing with the heart issue, the sin will simply come up in another way. Its like weeds in your yard. If you don’t get the root, they just come up someplace else. If you don’t get to the heart issue of your sin – the root – it’ll just show up someplace else.
Let me give an example. Say you realize that you lust after women. After great remorse and spiritual exercise you are able to control your looking so that you avoid the sinful thoughts about women. In time, however, you find that you have a deep anger towards your boss who happens to be a male. Now, you might say that there is absolutely no connection between the two and that you are dealing with two different sins. And maybe you are, but its just as likely that you are dealing with the same root sin. The anger is as good as murder (Matthew 5:21-22), murder is a failure to value the image of God in others (Genesis 9:6), and what is lust after a woman but the failure to see the image of God in her?
So, I disagree with the ‘First look natural, second look lust’ mindset because it fails to account for what the first look is telling us about our hearts. That first look tells us that we don’t recognize the image of God in whoever we are looking at because if we did, we would not look with lust. To say that men are more visual than women in their sexual thoughts does not absolve the man from looking at women as though they were in the presence of God.
Now, how you get your heart to look at people in that manner…..