Friday, September 08, 2006

Love and Lust in First Corinthians 13:4-7

I was referred to a new blog today. In replying to one post I mentioned something about First Corinthians 13:4-7 that I was shown long ago by Aaron Jones.

First consider:
Love is patient. Love is kind
Love is not jealous, not bostful, not proud, rude, or selfish,
not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not gloat over other people's sins but rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things, always trusts, always hopes, always endures.
We can replace "love" with "lust" and reverse the occurrences of "is" and "is not":
Lust is not patient. Lust is not kind
Lust is jealous, bostful, proud, rude, and selfish,
easily angered and keeps a record of wrongs.
Lust gloats over other people's sins and does not rejoice in the truth.
Lust bears little, never trusts, never hopes, never endures.
This works because in many ways love and lust are opposites.

One tricky thing is how secular society blurs together love and lust. Followers of Yeshua must understand and live out the difference.

A second, even trickier thing is that "lust" as embodied in the modifed verses above is part of our evil inclination, but physical attraction can be part of the good inclination. It is good to consider your spouse attractive.

When I am as close to God as I should be, Yeshua's work and God's Spirit within me allows me to be free of the evil inclination. In regard to lust, when I see an attractive woman I find I either pay attention to her face (or, rather, her temperment showing through her face) or I might briefly notice the rest of her and think something like, "She is attractive, may she make someone very happy."

I don't think that noticing someone is attractive ever stops (although when I am close to God I notice nature's beauty a lot more and thus spend less time looking at people). But the desire to possess or be possessed stops. The inclination to fantasize stops.

Actually, it's more than that. The desire to possibly interact stops. I stop caring what I think about that person or what they might think about me. That seems the true root of the earlier two things that stop.

As an example about love being different from lust, I'll share about Wednesday nights when my wife and I go swing dancing with friends.

My role as a lead is to make this space in front of me welcoming.
It does not matter if I do fancy moves or not. Neither does it matter if I have musicality or simply dance to generic eight-beat measures. Besides conversation (it is a social dance, after all) the important thing is for me to pay attention to the follow's center of gravity rather than my own. Then the dancing has balance and smoothness, and the follow looks good and has freedom to do styling.

In other words, through a kind of communication by touch I am letting someone know I value their comfort more than my showiness, and their company more than their talent. It works because people like simply being valued and supported and doing something cooperative--and knowing that's what is happening for about three minutes until the song ends.

That's what swing dancing is about (well, except in Portland). And it's something for which society does not provide many opportunities.

I'm not sure Yeshua's followers need to literally copy John 13 regularly and wash each other's feet. But on occasion I've given a (male) congregant a foot rub.