Our reader asked, "So if lust when you're dating someone is when you fantasize about someone else, what's the difference between lust and attraction when you are single? Are first date butterflies feelings of lust? Is the pursuit of someone that you're attracted to lust?"
This is a really great question. Here are a couple of thoughts:
We'll go out on a limb and say that 99% of first date butterflies and pursuing someone you're attracted to are both not lusting. Butterflies are just nervousness....and kinda fun! Enjoy them. And if pursuing someone you liked was lustful, the human race would surely be in danger of extinction. No, both these things are good and you shouldn't worry about either.
Lust can be defined as "intense sexual desire or appetite." Matthews 5:28 says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." The Greek word for lust here means "to desire for," "long for" and "to covet." We think that whether you are single, dating or married lust is the same: an intense sexual desire for someone who is not yours (even if that person is single), or for someone who belongs to another. When we dated, there were definite times where our sexual attraction to each other, which is natural and good, crossed over into "intense sexual desire" that led to doing things physically we shouldn't have. Dwelling on sexual desire in one's mind usually leads to lust and trying to physically satiate that lust. There is a difference between desiring the person you're dating and letting that desire turn to lust in the mind which can often lead to inappropriate actions.
We are designed by God to be sexual beings. Many times in Christian circles, sexuality can have a negative connotation. Yet our hormones, sexual development and brain chemicals that all drive sexual desire have been specifically designed by God. Our bodies are designed for marriage, intimacy and reproduction.
However, there is a HUGE difference between desire and acting on desire. Our culture says, "If it feels good and/or if you like it, then do it!" This is contrary to the Bible as God communicates that sex is good, but created for a specific purpose and context. Having sexual desire does not provide an excuse to act on those feelings before the appropriate time. In Song of Solomon it says three times to "not awaken love until the right time." That right time would be a life-long, exclusive marriage commitment.
Yet....married people can also struggle with lust vs. attraction. Attraction does happen and when it does we committed folk are just as responsible for our minds and actions. It's normal to find someone else attractive....but it's lustful to dwell on that attraction, fantasize in your mind about that person, and/or act on those feelings. Wisdom and maturity are important here. It takes a wise and mature person to simply say, "That man/woman has attractive qualities." And let it go at that. Don't compare them to your spouse, don't think about ways to interact with them, don't fantasize about being with them sexually.
Lusting and attraction are different. We all (married, dating, single) need to be individually aware of what's going on in our minds and guard our actions and interactions against lust.
*On the Relevant Blog, there was a comment by "RH" who talks about attraction in light of a person who struggles with masturbation and sexual addiction. He says,
"From my own unique perspective on it, as a man who went from slightly struggling with lust to going "all in", to even hold the belief of the beauty women other than my spouse is quite counterproductive. This quote, 'In fact, it actually affirms the creativity and beauty that God displays when he created humanity.' - While it may be true, don't use it as an excuse. Through the lens of sexual addict, if I would have read this article before, as the 'old' me, I would have printed it out, taped it to the fridge, emailed it to my wife and used it as an excuse. An excuse that it was ok to look at another woman because 'that's how God made me.' These comments are not intended for everyone who reads this article, but if you happen to be someone who struggles with lust in the slightest, don't use some of the conclusions presented as an excuse for any behavior you already know to be wrong. If your definition of looking upon someone else's beauty includes looking at sexual organs, don't use some of the ideas presented here as an excuse to still do so. If you have ever masturbated while 'appreciating' the beauty of another, move along. Nothing to see here."
We want to second these thoughts. Sexual addiction is not something to be casual about. If noticing members of the opposite gender consistently leads to sexual thoughts, and even more so to sexual acts (i.e. masturbating, looking at pornography, fantasizing, etc.) help should be sought from a counselor, pastor, or an accountability/sex addict group. Constantly sexualizing, in a demeaning and un-connected way, members of the opposite gender distorts attraction and the beauty/worth that God has placed in us all.
Jake and Melissa