I’m still not confident of how theologically true his statement was. All I know is that I believed him at the time and it wreaked havoc on me as a fairly new believer. He was a godly man that from all appearances had a godly marriage. I was a college student that had only been a believer for a couple of years and only hoped that someday I could be married to a godly woman.
“It’s not wrong to appreciate beauty. Don’t beat yourself up for ‘just noticing’. It’s that second look that is lust.”
I think I agree with him. And had he said that to me today, I doubt it would have damaged my soul as it did back then. But back then I wasn’t ready for such a “freedom”. I had only been saved a little while and that old habit of objectifying women had not yet been conquered; you could say that I was still haunted by the question.
So I took his advice. And as a hormonally charged sophomore in college I stopped fighting “the look”. I told myself that as long as I didn’t look for too long then it wasn’t a sin. I thought that I could still play the game of measuring women by physical appearance. As you can imagine this re-opened the gates to sin that I thought was conquered.
My brother’s freedom to not beat himself up for ‘just noticing’ had done serious damage to my heart. I was weak. I wasn’t ready for such a freedom. As theologically true as his counsel might have been—it was terrible. My experience was similar to what John Newton explained when he said:
And I have known and conversed with some who I fear have made shipwreck of their profession, who have dated their first decline from imitating others, whom they thought wiser and better than themselves, in such kind of compliances. (Newton On Christian Liberty)
That was me. Thankfully that was me. The Lord rescued me anew from that rebellious way of viewing the world. But it was a painful time that I still deeply regret.
The Freedom Not to Exercise
I’ll cut straight to the point: I’m afraid that my generation is going to kill ourselves and the generations to come because of our supposed freedom. I believe there are many things that we have the right to do because of the work of Christ. But there are many things that we should not exercise our right to do because of the work of Christ in also uniting us to weaker brothers and sisters.
I agree with my freedom-flaunting brothers (was that too harsh?) that we must be careful of legalism. Yes, there are unbiblical fetters that people attempt to put on one another. But I also believe, with Newton, that “when the mind is more enlightened, and we feel a liberty from many fetters we had imposed upon ourselves, we are in danger of verging too far towards the other extreme”.
May the Lord keep us from extremes. May He also cause us to be free to lovingly not exercise our freedoms for the sake of our brothers and sisters. It is my prayer that our generation, the ones before us, and the ones to come will have the wisdom to know when to exercise freedom and when to abstain.
May we be cautious with our freedoms.