More than meets the eye

The eye… what one looks at, or more precisely ‘how’ one looks at ‘someone’ is important for us all. A central element in Paul seems to be that something has already happened, for

… if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 4:17).

That is pretty comprehensive: ‘there is… everything… everything.’ The preceding verse states that ‘we regard no one from a human point of view’. Sight has changed, how we view everyone. That is a challenge beyond a challenge. Vladimir Putin is included? I guess so, for when Paul said no one, he had to be including Caesar and that particular one who raised the sword against him – Nero, the person who sparked the ‘antiChrist’ theme of Revelation (666 / 616 both being how his name was numerised).

Now to a Jesus’ text on how we see.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28).


In John 8 we read of the woman ‘caught in adultery’ and of course we do not read of ‘the man caught in adultery’. Patriarchal world-view, let’s pin the blame where it belongs… and enough in Proverbs to back this up biblically. So Jesus saying ‘but I say to you’ is not simply going from action to the heart (via the eyes) but is also going against the flow of biblical patriarchy (yes I did write that). If we only had Jesus we would be reading the ‘man, and only the man is guilty’.

We have then a wonderful correction to patriarchy. We see the same thing with his statements with regard to divorce where he (unlike the culture of his day) gives equal rights to women as to men.

The purpose of the ‘look’ is central to what Jesus is saying, interestingly the word ‘lustfully’ does not actually appear. It is the Greek word, epithumeo, the same word that Jesus said when he spoke to his disciples that he desired to eat the Passover with them (Lk. 22:15), and is the word used to translate the 10th commandment:

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (Exod. 20:17, LXX).

The text is a whole lot deeper than ‘control your sexual desires’, for that 10th commandment includes coveting donkeys and animals. When we combine it with Paul I think it is informing us that our sight is important. Whether that concerns sexual boundaries, or other boundaries, but essentially it is to do with our desires of possession. If there is a new creation we can have our sight changed. Old (patriarchal) definitions have gone, indeed old creational definitions have gone. We do not ‘see’ anyone that way. Ticking the box concerning sexual ‘lust’ gets us so far, but there is much further to go. No-one is here to meet our expectations, nor to be the fulfilment of our desires. They are first seen as living in this new creation and so cannot be classified nor objectivised.

3 thoughts on “More than meets the eye

  1. If we only had Jesus we would be reading the ‘man, and only the man is guilty’.

    gosh, possibly a bit of over-reaching here Martin? Surely the “go away and sin no more” comment addressed to the woman suggests no innocence, just scandalous grace on Jesus part.

    Just as Zacchaeus was not declared innocent of wrongdoing in being called down from the tree for dinner, so this woman was not being declared “innocent” by being sent on her way. Redeemed, transformed, set free from her past, maybe even forgiven, but of course we don’t know her response to Jesus parting advice

    keep up the provocative work!


    1. If we only had Jesus… also I am thinking 1) we do not only have Jesus; neither do we only have Torah; nor Paul etc… We have to wrestle with it all… and 2) John 8 is a little dodgy manuscript wise. Ah well, what do I know? We are all so limited and then do we read it all correct anyway. Don’t think I do.

  2. I don’t think the issue is that women are more sinless than men, they are not. We all harm others. Sometimes aggressively, many times passive aggressively. I don’t think Jesus is addressing individual sin per se. I think, as you suggest Martin, that for Jesus the issue is often systems. Systems of oppression like imperialism as the Jews were suffering under Rome. But also religion based systems of oppression (generally patriarchal) as seen in the Pharisees, Jesus so often castigates. In fact, he goes after them the most of all. To oppress others in the name of God is the worst thing for Jesus.

    The problem is a culture, often due to historical legacies, that gives some people based on some characteristics extra entitlements or just a kind of free pass rather than treating all as equal, dignified, and to be respected humans. And we still are not there yet as most any woman and/or any minority person would attest.

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