Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only (Christian) guy to have struggled with lust, and the only guy (even now) that needs to be careful of what is consumed (lest it leads to places of failure).
Of all the men and young men I’ve talked and mentored; only one has ever actually flat out admitted that he struggled with pornography. (I’m reasonably certain he’s not the only one…) When I was younger and and attended University, it was a continual challenge to avoid watching stuff that was lustful and contained nudity. Yet, today young men and men (Christians) put on a façade as if those struggles don’t really exist.
Maybe in our collective minds men (in our modern context) have redefined pornography to include only that which is “XXX” rated, but “soft porn” (a classification that’s highly deceptive), and general nudity is acceptable… Also, maybe that part of our lives (our hidden habits) are too taboo… too shameful… It’s just too uncomfortable to let someone else know what really goes on behind our scenes…
But take comfort! The Bible doesn’t seem to shy away from sexual issues. Actually there are some rather explicit scriptures that are definitely not read Sunday mornings, and are liable to make the most seasoned congregation blush! Take for example Genesis 38. It narrates a series bizarre circumstances of sexual exploits, but that nevertheless highlights important lessons on sexual integrity.
Genesis 38 starts out with the main character Judah (one of the 12 sons of Israel) departing from his familiar environment, and then initiates a sexual relationship with a foreign woman. (I really have to wonder if he married for sex, because almost in the same sentence it says that he got married and had sex. Read chapter 38 verse 2 and see if you get the same feel.)
Anyway, his wife conceives three times and Judah then has three sons. In a somewhat “Klingon-like” fashion, the Bible states that ‘son number one’ was wicked “so the Lord put him to death.” (NIV) So now Tamar, the wife that Judah had selected for his first son, suddenly became a widow.
The custom at that time was to keep the family in the family, therefore a male sibling was encouraged to marry his brother’s widow. However, the second son died also (at the hand of the Lord) because…well… he preferred to just have sex, rather than to be fully committed in the process of family responsibility and continuity. (Read chp 38:9-10 for more clarity.) He was selfish. He felt that any child he would have had with Tamar would not be his, therefore he took the necessary steps to make sure she would not get pregnant…
[Sidebar: Guys… sexual integrity matters outside and inside marriage. God was clearly displeased with son number two and punished him with death. God does not approve of selfishness, sexual integrity matters.]
Fast forward… Judah’s wife eventually dies. Tamar is still a widow (her biological clock, by the way, is still ticking…) Son number three is still available.
I think that what happens next in the narrative highlights this lesson; The lack of sexual restraint leads to complicated problems.
Judah goes to “Young Street” and solicits sex with a prostitute or a “harlot” -that’s the term mentioned in the Bible. It is interesting to observe the anonymity surrounding sexual dysfunction. I’m not sure if all prostitutes wore veils, but this one did. Judah didn’t care what she looked like, he was willing to buy sex, and she was willing to gain from it. As a matter of fact his friend (Aullimite) acts kind of like a “john” because Judah sends him (after it was all over) to go and make payment.
Now I’m not sure what the time frame was between his wife’s death and his marketplace sexual encounter. Perhaps Judah’s mental state may have been saturated in loss and grief, and we know that poor sexual choices are definitely made in periods of emotional confusion and vulnerability. However, the “payment” is always worth more than the experience. Specifically, in this context, the Bible said that she wanted Judah’s “signet and chord and staff”, which were essential elements of his familial and social identity.
By the way, (surprise, surprise) it turns out the “harlot” was his daughter-in-law Tamar. Yes. Judah had sexual relationships with his sons’ wife. (Yuck!)
Let’s pause at this cliff hanger…