It doesn’t take any great insight to see what sells today: sex. Across the covers of most magazines and videos, in newspapers, on television, and positively saturating advertisements is an unending parade of human flesh. The large majority of it is female, with the kind of figures we’ve all been taught to desire, both men and women. The persistence of one central image across decades of American advertising points to some profound need. The mere picture of a partially unclothed woman touches some root in people. It so stimulates them that they buy the product, having been sold the idea that the possession of this image will bring about the fulfillment of their need. What is it, exactly, that the men and women who have been so easily manipulated are looking for?
If you look at a typical magazine cover you will be caught by its seductiveness. The clothing (or lack of it), the woman’s posture, her look, would seem to be very satisfying if it were yours. She seems to have what a man desires in a woman. She also seems to have what a woman desires in herself. Both have been tragically ripped off to think that a glamorous appearance and a model’s figure bring happiness. However central these aspects of the image may seem, they are superficial. All but hidden by the brassy and tasteless image is the look of excitement and anticipation she wears.
Men wish their wives looked at them that way. Women wish they looked at their husbands like that. They both desire true intimacy. They both want the security of total acceptance. That would set them free to be the loving, exciting partners they want to be. So they buy the product or the video, hoping the image will bring about the reality. You would think it worked by how readily we fall for the same hype over and over again.
You only have to look as far as yourself to know that you’ve been had. You know you’ve settled for the loneliness of lust. If you had true intimacy with your spouse, you wouldn’t need the vicarious experience of it. You wouldn’t want to fill your mind with the image of another woman if you were content with the one you had or the woman you are.
True intimacy is only found in the covenant of marriage. That is the tie that binds two people together in an unbreakable relationship. There is no loneliness or lust there. If you think about it, maybe your grandparent’s world wasn’t filled with pictures of naked women because they had more security in their marriages. At least their generation understood that people are secure because they know that others won’t betray them or leave them. They would have seen the illusion of intimacy as cheap and tawdry compared to the substance.
Many today do not confine their sexuality to marriage. And many marriages are legal agreements, not covenants. The ideas of loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment do not carry much weight anymore. That is why the word love is so weightless. As it is generally used, lust would do equally well. By this process, the substitution of lust for love, the last traces of the image of God in human beings are being wiped out.
That is why there is so much loneliness and guilt in the world today. People are so far separated from God they think nothing of putting themselves first and their relationships second. That is the key to loneliness. Once you have opened that door it is so hard to go back, to actually pay the price of being loyal and loving another human being. Selfishness is not passive, it worms its way into your whole soul.
So we need to be in a place where every bit of selfishness and lust can be worked out of us. We need to be forgiven for every time we have put ourselves first to the hurt of others. We need to be saved from the hell of loneliness. Here and there we have run trying to find what can only be found in God’s presence — forgiveness, purpose, and an end to loneliness. Bound in covenant to Him, we can form the deep relationships we have always longed for. Who would settle for the illusion when the reality is right here at hand?