The Best, Not the Most

“So maybe my nature does draw me to you. That doesn’t mean I have to go with it. I can say yes to some things, and no to some things that are gonna ruin everything. I can do that. Otherwise, you know, what good is this life God gave us?” -from the film “Moonstruck


Cher in "Moonstruck"

Cher in “Moonstruck”

In the film Moonstruck, an engaged woman falls in love with her fiancé’s brother. Realizing the wrongness of pursuing a relationship with the man, despite her strong feelings for him, she admits her desires take her one way; her conscience another. In so doing, she speaks for millions of others facing the same dilemma: Do I go with what I feel, or do I go with what’s right?

What we want the most is often not the best for us, whether it’s a hot fudge sundae versus fruit, whisky versus herbal tea, or a hot stranger’s body versus the beloved spouse we’re in covenant with. A cruel fact of life, as any honest adult will admit, is that we may crave what’s wrong more than we desire what’s right, forcing some hard choices. We can say yes to some things, no to others, and our guidance for determining which is which had better come from something higher than our wants.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

As a culture we may have realized this once upon a time. I’m pretty sure that when I was raised in the early to mid-sixties, sex was generally viewed as a marital privilege to be enjoyed, with no guarantee it would always be great. “Great” was good – something to be desired, sure, but not required. And when the passage of time brought with it mutual familiarity and changes to both partner’s bodies, there was no contract provision citing Irreconcilable Boredom or Sagging as grounds for adultery. Relations with a younger model or pornographic fantasy might be more exciting than the tried and true, but no one suggested that hot sex was a right, or that if one thing was more gratifying than another, then it was thereby legit.

In short, no one preached the doctrine of Perpetual Indulgence. The fact that one form of sexual activity was more enjoyable than another didn’t legitimize the activity itself, and being true to yourself meant consistency with your principles, not expression of your urges, no matter how deeply felt.

It’s another matter today. There’s a growing encouragement, covert and sometimes way overt, to know what turns us on the most then go with it. For the single woman or man that can mean trashing the principle of chastity; for the married, it bypasses fidelity. I Want trumps I Believe, making the I Believe into something secondary (“It’s what I really want so it’s OK”) or subjective (“It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.”) And if I didn’t know we had a Creator to answer to for the way we’ve used the bodies He’s commissioned us, I’d agree. Why not, after all, do what feels best?

Why Bother?

Pleasure’s fantastic. I love it in so many different forms, including the sexual. So refusing a particular pleasure requires a strong, clear rationale.

Jesus provided it when He said “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”  (Luke 17:33) The first part reads like a prohibition; the second, like a promise. As a follower of Him, I’m told not just to believe (great start) but to then act on my belief in Him and His sacrifice by taking up my cross, daily and willingly.

That means, among other things, saying “no” to whatever urges we have that would take us out of His will, no matter how deep the satisfaction might seem if we gave in to them. And the claims of the Cross are, for many of us, felt most keenly when applied to our sexual selves.

The behavior which (possibly) delivers the highest pleasure – the porn, the masturbation fantasy, the partner who seems like the other half of your soul, the whatever  – carries the Most impact without delivering the Best results, since Best results are illusive when the Maker’s instructions aren’t followed. So you die to it; that’s Part I.

Then comes the good news. You find truer satisfaction, deeper love, stronger peace and immeasurable joy by staying within the bounds of His intentions. A new and better life is found by refusing things we thought were life-giving but, in fact, proved to be life-choking. There’s the wonder of the other side of the cross, the glory of life lived as He meant it to be, dead to what kills; alive to what invigorates.

That’s a very sweet deal indeed; one to remember when what we might want the most masquerades as what’s best for us. The Lord of Life calls us to death only for the sake of True Life, and no one gains more than us when we, body and soul, say Yes to Him.

Tomorrow: Marriage Matters

Friday: Part Two of our Ongoing Series on the Reparative Therapy Controversy

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