Our modern culture seems to have forgotten that Lust is one of the seven deadly sins. We’re all still pretty agreed on Greed, Wrath, and Gluttony. Sloth, Pride, and Envy seem tolerated as long as they don’t get out of hand. But Lust is fully accepted. It’s gone from deadly to everyone does it so it must just be a natural working of our chemical make-up, right?
“If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” (Awww, the oft missed wisdom of parents.)
I noticed this the other day while I was listening to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Gaiman gave a broad description of the city of London going on about its everyday life. He threw lust in there alongside paying the bills and grocery shopping. He set it on the same level as those mundane, every day activities.
If anyone could make me set my pen down and stop writing, it would be Neil Gaiman. His books are so beautiful it hurts. The descriptions are vivid and unique. The characters are both down to earth and fantastical. His stories are full of whispered hints of past fairy tales, past stories, shared culture. They are rich, engaging, and masterfully detailed. And yet. Yet, I’m constantly frustrated by my inability to share them without caveats. He always has something inappropriate or sinful in them.
It’s not that a book is only good if it doesn’t have sin. Quite the opposite. We need sin in our stories or we have no salvation. We need death or we have no resurrection. But so many stories, Gaiman included, don’t show the consequences of sin. They might show the consequences of some sin in the anti-hero, or the villain, or as conflict, but it’s never treated as sin. Rarely, and growing more rare, do the characters see their sin, their need for salvation and repentance. Half, or more, of the 10 commandments are treated as guidelines and suggestions, if not just completely ignored.
Characters face the consequences of bad decisions but rarely for their lust. It’s just treated like, “well, everyone does it, what are you gonna do.” Shrug shoulders. I have a thought! We could fight it. We could show the fact that lust leads to death just as surely as gluttony does. We could stop pretending teen pregnancy, rampant abortion, lack of marriage vow holding, and a whole slew of other problems don’t exist as a consequence of lust. We could open our eyes and see the price of sin is death.
But, that is a supernatural work. It requires the work of the Holy Spirit. Dead men can’t smell their own stink.
Thus, I will hold my pen and not throw it down in awe of the gift God gave another man. I will keep writing so that not all the stories treat lust like it’s the equivalent of a stomach rumble. And I will keep copying—in the simple way a child draws stick figures as he watches his father paint—my heavenly Father by saving sinners from their sin. This is what I will aim to write. And I will do it as beautifully as I can using the gift given to me.
I will also keep reading Neil Gaiman because he sparks meditation on the grace of God by showing me how lost I am without that blessed blood shed for me.