Valentine’s Day Reflections: Love & Lust

One scene from a nearly-forgotten movie remains fresh in my mind: A criminal visiting a run-down apartment looks through a doorway and spots a scantily clad girl sitting on a bed. She’s high on drugs. Immediately the lowlife tells his buddy, “I’m in love.” He proceeds into the bedroom to take advantage of the stoned woman.

In that film, the criminal doesn’t achieve his goal. The moment he touches the girl, she comes alive and fights like an angry cat. I stopped watching, but the scene stayed with me, a cinematic reminder of how people confuse love and lust.

Both men and women can experience either love or lust. With some couples, one person might genuinely love the partner, while that partner merely lusts the other — but believes his/her feelings are love. After all, nowadays people stretch the word love to express appreciation for ice cream, their favorite TV series, a new fashion… whatever. So, what’s the difference between love and lust? Although they can look similar, there are huge differences:

Lust expresses strong interest in another person, but for selfish reasons. In the movie scene above, the criminal  felt strong sexual arousal. He wanted to enjoy the woman’s body. The same happens in the real world. Although a person in lust might be witty, charming, generous, and do “thoughtful” things to win appreciation from the one he/she lusts, the underlying goal is self-centered: to engage in sex, mainly for personal gratification. Lust cares more about getting than giving.

A person in lust, say a man, might believe he’s in love. But if the target of his attention makes clear that sex without marriage isn’t going to happen (or that it’s not going to happen anymore if it already has), he might grow frustrated, even angry, when the desires of his hormones are thwarted. (He might eventually give up and seek an easier target.)

The fact that a physical relationship brings pleasure doesn’t guarantee it’s a love relationship. The prostitution trade proves that even total strangers can enjoy the physical sensations of touching, kissing, having sex–all without love.

Contrary to lust, Love is more concerned with giving than receiving. Genuine love is concerned with meeting the needs of the loved one, regardless of whether the loved one can reciprocate. Neither is love purely emotional. To a great degree, to love or not love is a decision.

An older couple had been married many years. When the husband suffered a heart attack and other health issues, he lay in the hospital, unconscious and surrounded by machines, tubes, and wires. His adoring wife could get close enough only to caress his bare foot as she waited to see whether her mate lived or died. Selfless dedication. Caring. Giving without receiving… Love!

Although love might be expressed in a touch, it can survive without sex. In fact, love can endure even when there’s no touching, even across many miles, as in time of war or travel for business.

There are various types of love (love for a child, for a spouse, for a family member), and each differs

in intensity and type of commitment. But if the love is genuine, its primary concern will be the welfare of the other, not using that person to please self.

The Bible declares in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” So the best description of love will come from God’s own Word. See for yourself the image on the right to review 1 Corinthians 13, and see what God says on the subject!