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I’m sure the title of this post reminds you of a horror film. It should. Cutting up a body into pieces is a common theme in scary movies because the very act is near the horizon of horrific things we can conjure within our imagination. It leaves the viewer deeply disturbed and victims, well…destroyed with no chance of recovery.
The part is not supposed to be seen as completely distinct from the whole. Yes, our clever, critically thinking minds enjoy breaking big things down into small things. The scientific mind separates things into their smaller and smaller building blocks in order to understand their correlation. It’s the last step that’s absolutely vital, understanding correlation, which becomes our greatest miss.
For example, it’s great that there are photons, gluons, as sub-atomic particles, which function in electrons, protons and neutrons, which make atoms, which make molecules, which become the building blocks of it all. However, if the photon is not correlated or integrated with a persons experience, then we will never really know who we are-we are not merely photons, but also not distinct from them either. What is the value of a photon to a cat? If the neurologist and the cardiologist don’t communicate, and are dis-integrated, then the diagnosis can conflict.
On a more practical level, dismemberment occurs everywhere. Every time we make a judgement about another person, we are taking the part and applying it to the whole, which we know nothing about. Everyone has a back-story which is hidden and persona which is not. We begin tearing each other apart when we are young and it becomes the gravest of invisible sins because we grow immune by mere overexposure. Making two things out of one thing is the heart of division, and it is the opposite direction of the flow of God, which makes one thing out of all things. “Here O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is ONE.” This is the opposite of loving your neighbor as yourself, because we never separate a part from our whole story. We don’t dismember ourselves.
Now we are ready for today’s verse from the sermon on the mount.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30
This verse is the biggest bludgeoning tool women in the church have used agains their men. Lust is typically more a man’s problem than a woman’s. Women typically struggle with worry (more on this later). This verse has been used to punish husbands, fiancees and boyfriends by making physical attraction synonymous with lust. Playing this card in the church is a convenient way to have manhood kowtow to the insecurities of women.
My doctoral dissertation proved that pornography is not a sin because is shows too much, but a sin because it shows too little. Thus religion has created arbitrary lines of morality where nudity becomes equivalent to pornography, as if the pigment change of an areola is abhorrent to God and country. The result is the demonizing of the female form and the man for liking it. Some religions go so far as to make women entirely responsible for causing men to lust and the solution is to obscure them from head to toe.
A common theme in Jesus’ teaching surrounds the sin of dividing things, which is a result of binary thinking. His counsel on lust is that it’s better to dismember yourself, than to dismember another (a version of the Golden Rule). Anyone who divides another (including themselves) is not living from the kingdom, but holistically (whole body) living in a personal hell. Of course eye-gouging and arm-amputating is not to be a literal interpretation or solution, and fortunately even the most fundamental believers don’t take this passage literally.
Jesus is obviously saying that we must pay attention to the inner motives. Just like name calling is the seed that grows to murder, so giving vent to attraction and allowing it to go to lust is the seed of adultery. The point is that we must take a drastic measure to prevent the normal, biological reality from growing into to the ruin of one’s self and others. We must manage the small thing knowing that it is but a small version of the big thing, but it is NOT the big thing. Lust may be adultery within the heart just as name calling is murder within the heart, but lust is not the same as adultery in like manner.
This teaching only makes sense when we free ourselves from a binary framework. Otherwise we lock ourselves into one side of the story, it’s not black and white despite most people believing that lust is either the same as adultery or its not. The teaching is actually saying that lust is the essence of adultery but not in full bloom. A sunflower seed is not a sunflower, but the sunflower is somehow contained in the seed, and given the right environment and time, it will come out. Want to end murder and adultery, stop it at the headwaters.
Jesus brings true meaning to the commandment by once again driving it into the heart level. We must become self-aware an pay close attention to the motivations within our heart. If we lose sight of what is happening inside us, we ultimately lose our true self. We are admonished to do something drastic about the small, unnoticeable part, so that the “holon” whole part (soma) body isn’t lost. This is the meaning of Gehenna again. It’s a description of the dump where things are “bálé hapō” (thrown out-trash) A living hell.
This is NOT saying that if we have lust in our heart we are going to Hell. It’s saying our unwillingness to manage our motivations means we are already there. Trying to convince our spouse, church or others that these impulses are only “past tense” is a deception that far too many of us prefer to the truth of what lies within us. What could be more of a living Hell than knowing our inner struggle but pretending it doesn’t exist? We are not punished one-day for our sins, we are punished today by them. Our life today is simply the blossom on our previous thinking. Jesus’ sermon offers freedom from this trap by no longer divorcing our humanity from our spirituality, they are one and the same. Change today and life moves into conformity to the heaven within.
Liberation from lust will not come through a computer nanny that keeps nipples from appearing on our screen. It won’t come from a religion our spouse that emasculates key aspects of our manhood or causes men to think like women. It will not come from fear of eternal torment nor elaborate theologies that titillate our intellect instead of our bodies. Liberation from lust is a spiritual practice of loving the whole person, not a punitive religious transaction. It requires eyes that see not just parts, but the whole picture. Lust, just like murder is the sin of separating and dismemberment. Healing is the practice of re-integrating all the pieces that are invisible until we awaken.
Healing is the loving practice of seeing beyond everything.