To go deeper into our faults, look to Jesus, who expands our understanding of sin by using the words lust and anger (Matthew 5:21-30). He knows that we all struggle with these dark reactions. Lust is any desire that has gone mad and become a demand. Though the word lust is most often associated with sexual desire, other desires–lust for power, money, recognition–can be equally consuming. And when our desire is thwarted, we direct our anger at anyone who stands in our way, anyone who prevents us from getting what we demand–that which we believe will satisfy our need. Jesus does not take these destructive reactions lightly; in fact, he goes on to say that anyone who lusts is an adulterer and the person who is angry is subject to the same punishment as a murderer (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28).
Jesus’ words seem to be hyperbole. I may struggle with lust, but I’ve never had an affair. I may be angry at times, but is that as bad as killing someone? The radical makeover of our character that must take place begins when we embrace the wonder of being forgiven–but to accept forgiveness, we must first admit our need for it. So it’s important for me to be clear: It isn’t that I used to be lustful and angry; I am lustful and angry today and need God’s forgiveness…
What is true of me, I believe, is true of you. And that is, we struggle. We struggle with hiding and blaming, with lust and anger. And what do the Scriptures say about the nature of who we are as a result of the fact that we lust, not just sexually, but for power, for prestige…just for a day off? When God calls lust “adultery,” and ranks anger (apart from the righteous anger in service of his glory) as serious as “murder,” it isn’t hyperbole. It is the gospel truth.
What is the truth for each one of us? It’s easy to let our eyes pass over the words we read and quickly agree or disagree with their validity without stopping to ponder the application of those words to our lives. How do we apply the words of Jesus regarding lust and anger? How would you name your interaction with your neighbor this morning–a reflection of lust or anger? How about the strained conversation with your teenage son or daughter? The moment we allow these truths to get personal, we find it is harder to tell the truth–and harder to believe in the gospel.
An extreme makeover for our character begins, then, when we embrace the gospel truth–of being marred and remade–alive in the freedom and power of the resurrection…We become radically new when we bless our gifts and how God has marked our face, our story, and our calling; grieve our failings and the consequences on those we love and serve; and glory in forgiveness and live out resurrection freedom and boldness.
~ Dan B. Allender in Leading Character, pp. 46-49.