The Fleeting Pleasure of Sin

“At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves. But she did not offer him anymore.”

In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the evil queen of Narnia produces a box of Turkish Delight to entice young Edmund Pevensie. Captivated by the sweetness of the dish, Edmund devours what she gives him and longs for more, staring at the empty box as if spellbound by it.

Knowing the appetite that has been aroused within Edmund, the queen promises him all the Turkish Delight he could ever want, as well as the right to rule the realm of Narnia with her. All he has to do is accomplish her purposes for him. Edmund goes away with a single-minded devotion to the queen and her Turkish Delight.

Edmund will eventually come to see the truth about the queen, but not before bringing much pain and suffering upon himself. His desire for the dish will corrupt his character as he betrays his brothers and sisters. It will drive him away from those who love him, into isolation and despair. Before his story takes its turn, Edmund will ultimately find himself enslaved. As he discovers, the queen is a persuasive and exciting temptress, but she makes a cruel and demanding master.

Edmund’s story takes place in the fantasy land of Narnia, but it illustrates well the working of sin in our lives – especially sexual sin. All types of sin are characterized by deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13), but sexual sin is presented to us as uniquely, deeply satisfying. It is sensual in the purest definition of the word, appealing to all of our senses with manifold promises of pleasure. The aroma of sexual sin is powerfully, intoxicatingly sweet.

And as that aroma wafts into the American church, too many of us freely drink it in. The statistics on pornography use within the church vary widely but are consistently staggering. One survey by Covenant Eyes found that 1 in 3 Christian men view pornography at least several times a week (over half do so at least once a month), and 1 in 5 believe that they may be addicted or aren’t sure if they are. How many within the church feel a jolt of panic when Paul declares that “no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5)? How many more should?

The widespread reach of sexual sin in our culture and within the church makes Paul’s words to the Ephesians immediately relevant to us as well. Paul directs the Ephesians not just to test the bounds of what is acceptable but instead to eradicate even the traces of sin within their lives.

Notice the immoderate nature of his commands: “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people…Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness.” (Ephesians 5:3;11). They are not even to joke about sexual sin (Ephesians 5:4). A life-encompassing pursuit of purity is not the fruit of a legalistic heart in Paul’s eyes; it is a vital part of what it means to live as people of the light (Ephesians 5:8).

However, there are many within the body of Christ for whom the situation is already dire. We have failed to see the Turkish Delight for the illusion that it really is, and find ourselves enslaved to this nefarious enemy, struggling in vain to get free. We keep believing the empty promises, going back again and again to the same source that is slowly killing us. At some point we must come to see the stark reality underneath all of the lies that we are fed—sexual sin cannot deliver on the promises that it makes. It hints at ultimate satisfaction but produces only a fleeting pleasure.

We must come to see behind the sweetness of the dish and to desire something much more substantial instead. Sexual sin is insanity because it is the exchange of a greater pleasure for a lesser; to get to this quite trivial pleasure that fades in an instant, we must withdraw from our Lord, who holds pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). As Lewis would say, our desires are not too strong, but too weak.

-Brian Barbee, Downtown Campus