March 12: Lust, Empire, and Divine Desire
“Thus God has given us, through these things, God’s precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness and goodness with knowledge…and godliness with mutual affection and mutual affection with love.” 2 Peter: 1:3-5
I do not know what this author was experiencing, but the second century was one dominated by the power and values of empire. To “escape corruption because of lust” is to begin to separate from these values, to anchor oneself in a different reality. Divine desire cherishes all beings. Dwelling in this eros for others is to participate in the divine nature. Lust is eros gone wrong: it dominates, excludes, demeans. Because we inhale the values of empire like second-hand smoke, escaping this corrupting power is difficult – the author did not entirely escape, but incorporated domination over slaves and women into Christianity itself. But he does give us clues how we might resist corruption. He invites us to seek goodness, knowledge, affection, and love. These were then and are today alien to oligarchy, racism, sexism, militarism, assaults on water and land: everything that encourages us to dominate or demean.
Escaping corruption is not moralism: it is participation in the divine nature. Through holy silence and prayer, let us be rooted in living water, the infinite freshness of our divine Beloved. Let us see with Christ’s eyes; let us recognize Christ – the “fairest face in heaven” – in every being. Let us participate in and embody the divine eros which guards and guides all beings. Let us labor for the “least of these,” but turn our hearts from hatred. Let us resist not with the tools of empire but by participating in the divine nature, allowing the Beloved’s justice-seeking compassion for every being to flow through us and our community.
SFTS Professor and Director of Programs in Christian Spirituality