This is the second entry in a series dealing with sex and, in particular, challenging young men with the notion that their consumption of pornography has so shaped their perception of sex that they need to detox if they are going to be suitable husbands to their wives. In the first part of the series I wrote about Pornifying the Marriage Bed. I had intended to move to a Theology of Sex but based on feedback from yesterday’s article, I wanted to first share what I’ve written today. This is, I suppose, a kind of parenthetical article in the midst of the series.
When I meet a young man today, I pretty much assume that he is into pornography or at least that at one time he has been. It is sad but true. The sheer accessibility of pornography almost guarantees that every young man will find it; and once it has been tasted, it is difficult not to indulge. I know that the issue of pornography is spoken about so often in Christian circles that it is in danger of becoming cliche. But it is a reality we cannot avoid or overlook. The purpose of this short series of articles is not to say, “quit porn” as much as it is to say, “look what porn is doing to your heart.” I hope that this message will help you first see that you do need to quit looking at porn and, second (and even if you’ve already broken free) that you need to find a new way of looking at sex. Just quitting, while it is the right thing to do, is not enough. You need to replace the lies with truth.
I would not want to get through this series without first distilling one of the great lies about pornography and then pleading with guys to find freedom from the clutches of pornography.
Marriage Will Make it Go Away!
I’ve spoken to young men who feel that the answer to their reliance on pornography and their addiction to masturbation is marriage. “If I just get married, I can have legitimate sex and all of this sin will just go away.” This may seem a logical assumption but it is tragically flawed. It assumes a measure of equality between illegitimate, selfish sex and legitimate sex within marriage. It assumes that the bad can simply be replaced with the good like there is a 1 to 1 relationship between the two. Give the guy a legitimate outlet for his desires and he will no longer desire the illegitimate, right? Legions of men and their hurting wives will testify that it does not work this way at all. Pornography and sex within marriage are completely different things.. Yes, when you marry you may find that at the beginning you are well satisfied with your wife and find fulfillment in sex with her. But sin may still be lying dormant. If the sin has never been dealt with, it is likely to come back–to make a reappearance. It may be weeks or months or even years. But sooner or later, if that sin has never been repented of, never been put to death, it will rear its ugly head once more. Perhaps it will be at a time when your wife travels for a few days or when you travel out-of-town and find yourself alone in a hotel room in a strange city. Perhaps it will be after the birth of your first baby when there is that waiting time where for several weeks or a couple of months you cannot have sex. But it is very likely that the sin will come back to haunt you and to hurt both you and your wife.
You need to put sin to death! You cannot simply mask over it, cover it up, and believe that this is the same as actually dealing with it. It’s like those people you hear about who murder someone and then stuff the body into a wall or put it in a box in the basement. Who is dumb enough to think that this will actually work? The body is going to start to stink and sooner or later everyone will become aware that something is dead and rotting. It is like this with sin. You can box it up in favor of something legitimate, you can put the box in the basement and throw a blanket over it, but sooner or later that box and the death it contains is going to stink. You won’t fool anyone in the end, least of all the One who sees to the depths of the heart. “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man” (Proverbs 15:11). Do not ignore your sin!
But you already know that you need to stop. There aren’t too many Christian men out there who are looking at pornography and who don’t know that they need to quit. The problem isn’t with knowledge–it’s with desire and ability. Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of them want to stop just a little bit less than they want to keep going. And so sin prevails. The only way you will stop is if you begin to see the monstrous nature of the sin you are committing. You will only stop if the sin is more horrifying to you than the perceived goodness of the enjoyment of that sin. You will need to hate that sin before you can find freedom from it. Obviously pornography is a sin that is first and foremost a sin against God. God hates pornography as he hates any distortion of his good gifts. You know this already and have been told so innumerable times. In this series I am trying to show you some of the secondary effects of pornography and, most notably, the fact that pornography reshapes your very understanding of sex, of manhood, of womanhood. I want you to hate and fear this as you ought to hate and fear the sin itself. I want you to know that you cannot be a loving husband, an effective husband, a godly man as long as your mind is filled with the lies of pornography. You need to break free and you need to detox.
God is infinitely more willing to deal with your sin than you are to commit your sin. You may love this sin and be committed to it, but if you are a Christian, God is more willing than you are to overcome it and destroy it. He will grant grace for you to put sin to death. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
Time and expertise would fail me to outline a plan for defeating pornography. You can find all kinds of good information online. Just on the main page of two favorite sites I found Breaking the Porn Addiction (at Boundless) and Breaking Pornography Addiction (at CCEF). But, as good as those resources may be, I would not recommend starting at either one of them. If you truly want to overcome pornography, go to your pastor. There is not a pastor in America who is not helping someone deal with the fight against pornography (says I with only a small measure of hyperbole). Take your willingness to talk to somebody about your problem as a sign that you are actually, finally, willing to deal with it. The local church is the ideal context for battling this kind of sin since in the local church you will find the authority and the support to help you fight and, ultimately, to help you win. If you want to overcome pornography, truly overcome it, you will be willing to humble yourself and talk to someone about it. Though God may occasionally suddenly just remove a person’s desire to look at pornography, it is much more likely that it will be a long and difficult process of seeing just how deep inside this sin has gone and slowly drawing out the infection.
Now I know there are some people who do not have this kind of access to their pastors–the kind that can say, “I need help!” If that is the case, find a trusted, mature, Christian man (make sure he meets all four of those qualifiers) to whom you can talk. Do not talk to your eighteen year-old buddy and agree to some sort of accountability. That is not likely to work. Go to a Christian man whom you love and respect and tell him what you are dealing with. It will be humbling and humiliating in all the right ways. But I pretty much guarantee that he will empathize with you and will be both willing and eager to help you fight and vanquish this sin.
Starting the Detox
As I said in the previous article, pornography, like any other sin, comes with a kind of cascade effect. If you have been looking at porn for any length of time, I am certain that you can identify with this. You will know that the things that interested you at the beginning, that got you going, now seem pretty bland. And the things that were once repulsive are already beginning to intrigue you. This is the way sin is. This is the way sin always is. It will always demand more of you. And meanwhile, while you’ve been certain that you’ve been controlling your sin, it has been controlling you. It has reshaped your mind and your heart in certain ways, and has even shaped your understanding of your own wife or wife-to-be! You are looking at your wife through the eyes of a pornographer! Would you want Hugh Hefner staring at your wife’s body? And yet there you are looking at her through his eyes–through the eyes he and others like him have given you through your consumption of their pornography.
What you need to do is to borrow God’s eyes and to look at your wife through that lens, through that filter. You need to replace lies with truth. And God has given you the Bible so you can do just that. Through the Bible we are able to borrow God’s eyes and to see the world as he sees it. And so in the next article in this series we will form a Theology of Sex, seeking to understand the purpose of sex, of purpose of sexual desire and even the purpose of unequal sexual desire.
As I said yesterday, if you have questions or concerns you would like me to address in this series, feel free to use the contact form. Using that form you can get in touch with me anonymously if you like. I have already received some very useful (and sometimes heartbreaking) emails that are really beginning to shape the future articles.