So these last few weeks I’ve been thinking through the differences between lust and love and asking myself the tough question ‘Do I love Japan or is it just lust.’
Today I continue those thoughts with what I think is probably the biggest difference between the two:
Lust exploits. Love protects.
Or to quote Benjamin Nolot,
“Lust sees vulnerability as an opportunity to exploit, but love sees it as a chance to protect.”
When you think about it, this distinction is pretty much the basis for all (OK, a lot of) our books and movies. Villain sees a vulnerability that he can exploit for his advantage even if it involves taking the lives of others. Hero sees that vulnerability as an opportunity to defend those people even though it might mean laying down their life/lives.
Now I’ve only lived in Japan for about two years, but I’ve seen enough to know there are many vulnerable people here. Many ways to exploit them, but also many ways to protect them.
Now I know I said this wasn’t a post about sexual lust, but the exploitation of vulnerable women is something that has really been burning into my heart of late and Japan feels like it is full of vulnerable women being exploited when they should be being protected.
And the thing with all these points is that it is easy (or at least easier) to simply stop at the not-lusting stage. That’s what the pharisees did and Jesus hated them for it.
What I mean is it’s tempting to think that the best thing to do with all the sex on sale in Japan is to turn a blind eye. Don’t look. Protect your purity. Guard your heart.
Now I totally get the importance of guarding your heart. The Bible is clear on that:
“More than anything else guard your heart. For from it flow the well-springs of life.”
I have ignored the seriousness of that command too many times, and paid the price. Purity of heart is like low body fat: difficult to achieve, easy to lose. And it doesn’t get easier with age. The fight is, as they say, real.
But there are also plentiful commands in the Bible about protecting others, especially those who are vulnerable and those who are being exploited. I am meant to fight for both the purity of my heart and the protection of those who are hurting.
If merely avoiding sinning yourself was the highest morality possible then Jesus Christ would not have become known as ‘friend of sinners.’ But he did, and for a good reason: he was.
Jesus was willing to stand between an angry mob and a woman caught in the act of adultery. His love demanded that he did, because whilst those holding the stones were motivated by lust, seeking to exploit her vulnerability, Jesus was motivated by love, and love protects.
So I don’t think it’s enough for me, as a man, to simply avoid the parts of Japan where I know temptations to exploit women lie. Love demands that I protect those women, not just turn a blind eye.
What that looks like, I don’t know yet. Maybe something like this move by Simon Guillebaud.
Whatever the case, it is clear to me that this question, ‘Do I love Japan or is it just lust?’ isn’t just about how I feel. The answer will be determined by how I live.
Maybe the question I’ve been asking is a bit off. Maybe I shouldn’t ask, ‘Do I love Japan?’ but, ‘Will I love Japan?’