Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
A friend of mine who was in a good marriage with a wonderful wife who loved him, adorable children lost it all because of his sexual obsession with a co-worker. Now, I won’t lie to you. His coworker was quite attractive. But what impurity did was cause him to let go of reason about who he was and the gifts of life he had and he pursued this co-worker based only on his physical gratification. The interesting thing about this dynamic is that in his mind he tried to construct a new reality for himself where all the great things about his life and his wife and his kids would be made a reality with this new person. All of the things in his life he didn’t like…well, he thought a relationship with this co-worker would make all those things go away. He began to rationalize and justify everything in his life. He began to overly highlight the negatives in his current relationship – “my wife nags me too much, or she’s not providing for my physical needs sufficiently.” The truth was his reality was skewed and his vision blurred. That’s what the passions do to us…they blind us to love of God, love of others, and love of self.
The sad story of my friend ended in divorce, separation from his wonderful children, and yes he ended up with his co-worker and they got married, but as more “reality” was introduced into his life with this new person, the more he realized that all his dreaming of what life would be with her was based on a dream…it was a creation in his mind. Their relationship dissolved within two years.
The passion of impurity caused him to abandon commitment to his family. The early Christian monastics would define impurity as abandoning hope and faith merely for physical gratification. We are higher beings than that, they would tell us. And not only they, but God himself calls us to more than just giving into our selfishness at the expense of love.
What can help us most is to understand that the earliest Christian believed that giving in to impurity, which we also call lust, was an abandonment of hope for the sake of physical gratification. Lust is the physical desire for another based on upon only gratification and leads to a distortion of the healthy way God created us to relate to and love one another. Lust is not love. Lust does not foster commitment. Love builds up, lust tears down.
How can we overcome this passion? First, we need to acknowledge that it is an issue in us and we need to be in prayer honestly with God about it. Sometimes we don’t really feel its right to pray about such things to God. The other thing is to do exactly what the ancient Christian monastics did…put yourself under an Abba or Amma – a mentor if you will that can help you keep your desires in check.