“Everyone who looks with lustful intent has already committed adultery in their heart.” Matthew 5:28
If there was ever a way to capture the danger of sexual sin, Jesus does it in these passages. He begins by affirming that the Old Testament forbids adultery, and then moves to declare that even looking for the purpose of lust is the same sin. The text describes looking at a woman lustfully, but there is nothing in Scripture that indicates that looking at a man lustfully is ok; it is equally understood as culpable.
This looking in order to lust encompasses a broad range of fantasizing, from watching pornography on the Internet to reading steamy fan-fiction, to old fashioned lingering looks at classmates that imagine something more. The accessibility of explicit sexual images today has made entrance into patterns of sexual sin not only easier, but more normalized. You may already be conditioned to not take this seriously, because everyone you know is doing it.
There’s nothing more serious than the hyperbole Jesus employs in 5:29,30. He declares that it would be better to lose two of your most important body parts rather than be condemned for sexual sin. Don’t kid yourself: playing around with sexual temptation is severely spiritually dangerous, and as a college student you are in the thick of opportunity to give in.
God doesn’t forbid adultery and the sexual sins that represent it because he’s a prude, or because he’s grossed out by sex. He forbids it precisely because he created sex to be a delightful, vibrant gift to be enjoyed in the safety of marriage, because only this allows sex to fulfill one of its main purposes: creating a picture of what the intimate love between Jesus and the Church looks like. The vulnerability, pleasure, and known-ness are just a small taste of what deep relationship with God is like, and we shatter the effectiveness of this image for ourselves and others as we habitually sin. Not only that, but we harden our hearts against the Lord who wants softness from us.
Sexual sin is often one of the most private, even shameful, sins and if you are caught in it, everything in you will rebel against confession and coming in to the light. Though it feels risky, it is less risky than what Jesus describes here. Find a safe, older believer to confess to, and set up a prayerful plan to seek how to avoid temptation by the power of the Spirit. Even if you’re not nor haven’t ever been felled by habitual sexual sin, educate yourself on the topic to prepare yourself well to stand and help others stand on your campus.
Remember that there is deep grace and help for entrenched sin in Jesus, and that he will never turn away the heart that mourns over sin. Remember too that he created all his boundaries for our good: explore in the Bible and with others where this goodness is, so that you can be empowered to say Yes to obedience by God’s power. Be ready to ask for and expect transformation as you draw near to Jesus, in the company of others.