“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, English Standard Version, here and following).
The Olympian gods regard human beings as means to an end and encourage us to do likewise. Consequently, they tempt us to measure the importance of others in terms of their usefulness to us. We love others, in the Olympian sense of having feelings of affection toward them, so long as they are useful to us. Once they get in the way, become tiresome, or are used up, then we stop feeling affectionate toward them and love someone else. It’s that simple.
This point of view is shared by Venus, goddess of sex. Venus regards all forms of sexual intercourse as meaningful and measures a person’s importance in terms of their sexual attractiveness. We do the same when we devote ourselves to her.
Jesus has a different point of view. He does not regard people as means to an end. Instead, he regards all human beings as equally precious ends in themselves.
Venus tempts us to lust for one another. Her motto: if it feels good, do it. If we find someone else, anyone else, sexually attractive, then we should satisfy our desires if we can. Other people are means and our self-satisfaction is the end.
Jesus takes a different point of view. For him, love is not a self-centered feeling or attitude. Love is one’s radical self-commitment to nurture and protect others. This excludes regarding others as means to an end. It excludes lust because lust involves looking at others as means to our own ends. Lust is self-gratifying rather than self-committing.
“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery…” (Matthew 5:32).
This explains the attitude of Jesus toward divorce. Jesus delegitimates divorce because, again, he doesn’t want us to regard marriage as a relationship of convenience or simply as a means to our own ends. He thinks of marriage, and this between one man and one woman, one husband and one wife, as our best way of witnessing to the tufluvian relationship between Christ and his Church and between the Church and Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).
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