This week marked a couple of rites of spring. The reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training and the arrival of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. For me one is a “right” of spring and the other is becoming a “wrong”. I was on the road when the swimsuit issue arrived at my home. The lovely Mrs.Burchett led me into a marital minefield with this simple statement.
“Your swimsuit issue arrived today.” She waited.
Work brain, work! Must step carefully. Following the lead of Nehemiah I “prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered”.
My response was simple.
“Throw it away.”
Joni thought she had (to quote Roger Clemens) “misheard”.
“Throw it away. I don’t need to see that.”
I think I surprised the Missus. This has been a process for me. I have gone over the years from eagerly anticipating the SI issue to guiltily perusing it to quickly flipping through the magazine and then tossing it. This year I never even saw the issue. Next year I plan to make Al Gore happy by opting out of the swimsuit issue and not forcing a tree to die for such a meaningless cause. Why the change? Cynics will say that I am just getting old. I hope it is a little more than that.
Those unfortunate enough to know me well would hardly describe me as an uptight prude. I am a television sports director so I am all too well aware of “progressive” attitudes toward sexual issues. I am never surprised by inappropriate comments or images in my work world. Today’s thoughts are addressed to my fellow followers of Jesus. I have recently been focusing on my identity in Christ. I believe that my very spiritual DNA was rewritten when I trusted Jesus for my salvation. With that decision I changed. My behavior needs to reflect that change. Paul addressed these words to the church at Ephesus.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (Ephesians 5, NLT)
Several years ago my reaction would have been something like this. “Come on, it is just a bunch of skimpy swimsuits. Lighten up.” Alcoholics cannot sometimes have a drink. They must avoid it because they have a drinking problem. Most men have a lust problem. Can we sometimes indulge sexy images and be spiritually healthy? For me the answer is clear. Lust is mostly visual. Lustful images are almost impossible to delete from the mental hard drive. Images can lead to fantasy that can lead to really bad decisions. Paul had a simple solution. Run.
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (I Corinthians 6, NLT)
Many years ago I was a regular reader of a men’s magazine famous for foldouts so I am not speaking out of “self-righteous” ignorance. I know why men read such magazines. Incredibly, it is not for the articles! Any man who tries to rationalize that is disingenous at best and a liar at worst. Christian men should have no part of such magazines or websites. I am stunned by men who make threatening comments to young men that come to date their daughters and then go out and ogle and lust after the daughters of others. In New Man Magazine author Matthew Paul Turner writes that “pornography alters your view of humanity by objectifying people. And, it’s almost impossible for a porn habit “not to affect the relationships you hold most dear.”
That is truth. You can believe it now or find out, to your dismay, later.
I work in a secular and testosterone driven world. There may be a small percentage of men who can view these types of magazines or websites and not lust. I have not met any of them yet. If you are that man would you join me for lunch (and bring along a lie detector)?