Chapter Eight: Fantasy vs. Lust
It's common knowledge: Most Christians struggle with sex.
Ask any group of teenage or adult Christians, "Do Christians struggle with sex?", and the answer will be a nearly unanimous "Yes." And it's not just Christians, but most religious people. Pretty much everyone who believes that humans are more than mere animals, and even some people who think that humans are nothing more than a lucky species that evolved.
Except that the first statement above is phrased wrong. Most people don't struggle with sex. That is, most people don't have to struggle to have physical sex. What they struggle with are sexual thoughts.
Okay, now that we've pointed out that difference, everyone will say, "of course, that's what we meant." But that wasn't the statement. Why do people hear "struggles with sex" and subconsciously think "struggles with sexual thoughts"?
Well, perhaps because when we have difficulty struggling with sexual thoughts, we try to avoid or minimize sexual thoughts. Sure, we know it's okay to have sexual thoughts about our spouse, but any sexual thoughts beyond that is either wrong, might be wrong, or might lead into thoughts that are wrong. So we become reluctant to think about sex, and one of the repercussions of that reluctance to think about sexual things may be to avoid thinking about the process and nature of thinking about sex. And as a result, we use intuitive notions and common knowledge instead of examining the issues carefully.
What do we base our expectations on regarding sexual thoughts? Generally they seem to be based on the belief that lust is sinful1 and some variation of one of these two ideas:
x Lust is sexual desire.
x Lust is thinking about sex.
Wikipedia, the people's encyclopedia, defines "lust" as any intense desire or craving for gratification and excitement.2 That seems to be the commonly understood meaning, and when applied specifically to sex, it becomes any intense desire or craving for sexual gratification and excitement.
The problem, at least for Christians, is that we apply that meaning (because it's the only one we know) to the Bible passages that have Greek words that were translated into the English words "lust", "lusting", "lustfully", etc., and the Bible words do not have that meaning.