We often define ourselves by what we desire most. Be yourself. Fulfill your dream. I can love who I want. But it is not always right to be yourself, nor to fulfill any dream, nor even to love who you want. God cares about how you define yourself, what you dream of, and even whom you sexually desire.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes this last point clear when he names looking after someone with lustful intent as the equivalent to adultery. Here, Jesus warns us against following certain desires. He tells us that desire can become sin.
While these words may be commonplace to many Christians, we sometimes struggle to grasp the difference between good desire and bad desire as in looking at someone with “lustful intent.” The Holy Spirit has gifted the church with many gifted teachers throughout the ages, and in particular Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was given insight into Jesus’ words here.
So below, I offer a brief overview of Jesus’ words followed by Augustine’s pastoral reflection to help us understand how our desires can turn into sin so that we can know what is good (good desires) and avoid what is not (sinful desires). [Read more…] about How Desire Becomes Sin (according to Augustine)