The golfer’s “transgressions” point to an individual and cultural inability to deal with lust.

By Dave Boehi

I don’t think I’m surprised anymore when a celebrity is “caught” in adultery. For the last 15 years Tiger Woods has been my favorite figure in sports, and I can’t even count how many tournaments I’ve watched him win on television. But I haven’t been surprised at what Tiger called his “transgressions”; unfortunately I’ve come to expect them with people who live in that world.

What has surprised me is how quickly a scandal like this catches fire in this age of blogging, social networking, and electronic communication. Tiger has always appeared to be a master of control—of his golf game, of his privacy, and of his public image. But because of a lack of control in his personal life, he seems to have lost control of the public relations battle. As I write these words, the firestorm rages on, with headlines like:

“Woods ‘Throwing Money at Mistress, Wife’”

“Tiger and Elin Undergoing Intensive Marriage Counseling”

“Is Tiger Woods Paying for Silence?”

“Alleged Tiger Woods Mistresses Need to Shoulder Some of the Blame”

The days when the media ignored the marital indiscretions of the rich and famous are long gone. I agree with Tiger when he said, in last week’s public statement, that “Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.” But when you are as famous as he is, is that type of privacy ever going to be possible again?

One article I read last week used the Tiger incident as the platform to ask, “Why do men cheat?” It didn’t offer many answers, speaking vaguely about how men—and women—stray when they feel their needs for intimacy are not being met. I’ve seen other articles point to boredom, narcissism, and other causes for adultery. One blogger theorized that “public life leads some people to become desensitized to the consequences of their behavior.”

Of course, as a Christian my primary explanation would be that people commit adultery because they are sinners in need of a Savior. But let me expound on that a bit more.

We live in a world saturated with sexual images that are designed to appeal to our lust. Magazines and movies and television shows and songs celebrate sexuality and ridicule sexual restraint. Rarely are we encouraged in our culture to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

In fact, many people want the love and peace that Paul describes, but they also they want the freedom to act upon their desires.

True freedom, however, comes when you admit and confess your human failing, your inability to please God and to live a righteous life through your own efforts, and embrace the forgiveness and salvation God offers through Christ. And then pursue a life of purity in the power of the Spirit.

In an interesting interview on FamilyLife Today, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently talked about controlling sexual desires:

The Bible’s point is that God has given us a gift that comes with an urge, with a desire, with all the energy that comes into showing God’s glory in the sexual gift—in marriage …

The reality is that lust is just what happens when sin intersects with the sex drive. That’s the world we live in! …

Historians Will and Ariel Durant, looking at the entire scope of human history, said that “civilization is only possible when lust is banked like the high banks of a river to keep it from flood stage.” Well, we are in a society … in which we have basically opened the dam. In terms of our entertainments, in terms of our consumer advertising, in terms of the songs that we hear, and the images that are put before us, lust is now the drumbeat of the society that we know.

Mohler went on to say that people need to be taught early on about the need to control this lust.

Lust is sexual desire directed toward the wrong object—period—that’s it! It’s directed toward the wrong object. …

I would say to a 16-year-old boy, “God has given you this gift. It’s going to wake you up in the middle of the night. It’s going to shake you several times during the day, and it’s telling you—you are meant to be married. You need to grow up, be mature, and do whatever it takes for you to be able to make the kind of commitment you need to make to a young woman who is worthy of marriage. You need to be faithful to her. God’s going to give you the fulfillment of this gift and He’s not going to leave you alone until you get there.”

The problem is, in our society, we have people saying that there’s no reason to wait until marriage. Your focus should be on just whatever sexual pleasure you can find. So, they are basically being enticed into lust. The Christian dad has to say to his son, “Buddy, here’s the deal. Growing up means you have to figure out how to channel your energy in this part of life until you can get to where you say ‘I do’ to a woman who will be your bride.”

And growing up also means that after you say “I do,” you channel that sexual energy to your wife and to no other person. In this culture, that requires an extraordinary amount of self-control. Unfortunately for Tiger, that was perhaps the one type of self-control he was not able to master.

This article originally appeared in the December 7, 2009 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.