Christians can have sexual attraction without it being lust, according to a pair of Christian counselors who specialize in marriage and family.
The Dallas Theological Seminary podcast “The Table” had an episode posted on YouTube last week titled “A Healthy Approach to Sexual Attraction.”
The experts interview by host Bill Hendricks included Debby Wade, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in marriage, family, and sex addiction; and Gary Barnes, an ordained minister and licensed psychologist who specializes in marriage and family matters.
Wade took issue with the belief that sexual attraction and lust were the same thing, with her explaining that lust involves “objectifying” and “just seeing one level of a person.”
“Sexual attraction, I think, is way deeper, and encompasses so many things,” said Wade. “The way that God designed us physiologically, we do have that chemical reaction and that chemistry that we may experience with others.”
“And we know that there’s an attraction there. But we wouldn’t just want to base a relationship on just that attraction.”
Wade added that attraction involves a longer-term sentiment, using the hypothetical example of a married couple who had been together for 60 or more years.
“They were attracted to each other physically. And although their body physically has changed, because of intimacy, there being an attraction and then a deeper knowing, they would still say, out of all their body changes, their wrinkles and everything, ‘We’re as attracted to each other now as we were 60 years ago,’” she continued.
Barnes also noted a contrast between attraction and lust, defining lust as “objectifying for self-gratification” while attraction would be “beholding the beauty” and “powerful.”
“It’s powerful on purpose. And it could be used for constructive purposes, or destructive purposes. But it’s not ho-hum. And that’s really the good thing about God’s idea of sexuality is that it’s not supposed to be ho-hum,” said Barnes.
Barnes also talked about what he described as the “slippery slope of sexuality,” which involved the extremes of “demonizing sexuality” on one end and “deifying sexuality” on the other.
“Now at the top, the slippery slope that we tend to slide to one side or the other, is sacred sexuality. And that is God’s call for us to elevate,” he explained.
“What God has given us is a gift that He wants us to elevate. And the purpose, again, is to draw us beyond the physicalness of sexuality, although the physicalness is necessary to the drawing. And that’s what attraction contributes to. It’s a powerful part of the drawing. But we can’t let it pull us to either side of the slippery slope.”
In order to help elevate a healthy sexual attraction, Wade said it's important to begin with “a heart of gratitude.”
“A gratitude that God chose to make us as sexual beings, a gratitude that God chose to make both male and female, that God chose, in His creative way, to make us so uniquely different,” explained Wade.
“I think when we stay in a heart of gratitude, that we’re aware of it, so we can’t repress, we’re grateful for it. And then, I think when we have a gratitude and a gratefulness for something, and we know that He is the Creator, that helps us get in line of keeping this elevated.”
Carl Thomas, creator of the Live Free Community App and founder of the porn addiction ministry Live Free, tackled the topic of what lust is and is not in a 2018 op-ed piece published by The Christian Post.
“Lust IS NOT looking. Lust is letting your mind wander to sexual thoughts AFTER looking,” wrote Thomas, whose column originally appeared on XXXchurch.com.
“You see, lust is not this thing that just happens. It's not spontaneous. It's not random. Lust grows. It's in many ways organic. And it has its own lifecycle.”
Thomas added that “when you or I look at an attractive person, we aren't lusting ... but it's at that moment when the lifecycle can start to unfold.”