The Poison of Porn

It doesn’t take much to realize how much our society is obsessed with the idea of sex. You can look at social media, consisting of sexually inviting pictures that are readily available for the public to see. Any website is sure to have ads of some sort that can lead to sexual thoughts. In fact, there are countless websites that promote sexual promiscuity, especially those that are pornographic. The reality is that the majority of teens and adults in the world (if you think this is strictly an American problem, you can look for statistics of other countries) [1] regularly watch porn. This would only make sense, considering the amount of emphasis put on sex in today’s world. Porn is a regular thing that is growing in popularity and frequency.

These might just be facts to you. If they are, I’d like to spend the rest of the entry convincing you of the poison of porn. This does not come merely from a Christian perspective, though I do believe that the best way to combat this problem is through a gospel perspective. I’m hoping that, at the least, some come away reflecting upon the issue of porn and consider the remedy Jesus offers in the story of the gospel of which he is the protagonist. On the flip side, if you are a Bible-believing Christian who struggles with porn and claims to have been affected by the gospel of grace, porn is a serious sin issue that you have to start taking more seriously.

For starters, I want to state that I do not write this in any way with a sense of superiority. I am not speaking down to anybody, as I am just as prone to and susceptible to lust and the various forms of actions that occur due to sexual desires and thoughts as anybody else is. Then, I am speaking alongside those who struggle with pornography, not above and over those who struggle with this issue. Still, I believe it’s an issue that needs to be spoken of, and I’d like to look through the perils of it, the reason it’s so difficult to overcome, and some words of suggestion to believers and pastors with relation to porn.

1. INVOLVEMENT WITH PORN IS A SIN. This can come in all forms, starting with those who shoot, cast, or even watch pornography. For the sake of the majority, we’ll talk primarily about those who watch porn. Watching porn is a sin. It’s clearly stated through Christ’s words on the Sermon on the Mount when he tells his disciples that anyone “who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Categorizing lust in the same section as adultery, Christ explains this in Matthew 15:19 which reads, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Here, adultery and sexual immorality are not only placed together as evil that comes out of the heart, they are distinctly written out. Sexual immorality is a big, big deal, and it’s more prevalent in today’s society than many Christians can handle. The Apostle Paul notes the uniqueness and severity of sexual immorality when stating, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Sexual immorality, by definition, is one’s desire or performance contrary to how God designed sex to be. From creation, God had designed sex to be good for marriage. This means that these desires and acts are rightly used in the context of proper marriage and nowhere else.

As Christians, we always have to remind ourselves that sin is first against God. You might think that pornography is not too bad, because you’re sitting behind a screen and not necessarily affecting anybody else with your actions. However, sin is first and foremost against our Maker and Creator. Our God deems sexual immorality to be against that which pleases him and brings him joy. You might not be directly hurting anybody through your acts of masturbation or watching porn, but it’s damaging to your relationship with God.

With that said, porn is not only sinful but it is destructive to the Christian faith.

2. PORN LEADS TO ADDICTION. The reason porn is such a lure to people is that we are created to be sexual beings. This means that sexual desires and cravings are part of our original design. Through sin, our sexual desires have been stained to match this fallen world that falls short of God’s original intent. Yet, due to the fact that we are sexual beings, our sexual passions are also strong.

Countless people have confessed that porn is addicting and that they can’t get off of it. Watching pornography definitely leads to addiction, which is one of the reasons for it being destructive. This is because sexual acts contribute to compulsive behavior that eventually plays a role in the patterns of the brain. As human beings, every time our passions are met, this reward increases the level of dopamine in the brain. This signals a high or emotive satisfaction. Eventually, when high levels of dopamine is craved for and met upon desire, this creates a pathway where dopamine levels control the brain’s reward-related system altogether. This is why addictions often control the person and not vice versa, whether substance-related or behavior-related.

By definition, the word addiction comes from Latin, [2] and it means to be “handed over” or “enslaved to.” Thus, by definition, addiction shows a contra-Christian idea of idols that take a hold of our lives to the point of our full submission and enslavement to it. For those enslaved as addicts, there is no greater news than the gospel that informs us of our liberation from being addicts to false lords to being servants to the True Lord. Romans 6:15-23 marks a section in Scripture where Paul contrasts the way one is either a slave to sin or to righteousness. In doing so, he shows that one cannot be a slave to both, because you can only be lorded over by one or the other. By our sinful nature, we are naturally slaves to sin. This explains our proneness to addiction, including our seemingly unstoppable desire to watch porn. Idols in this world provide for us temporary satsifaction, but in the end, they will continue to rob us of our time, rob us of our sanity, and rob us of our control. Practically and spiritually, they take over our lives, showing a direct opposite result of those who belong to a different master Jesus Christ. Those bought by Jesus to be of his fold and under his kind and gentle lordship are brought in at a price. Romans 6:23 famously states that “the wages of sin is death,” meaning the price Jesus had to pay as our Lord was to die to pay our old master the cost to redeem us. Then, the key to overcoming this addiction that takes over our lives is looking at a better master who promises better things. Furthermore, this master sacrificed everything he had so that we might be safe in his arms.

This addiction and behavior not only has a negative impact on our relationship with God, but it negatively affects our relatoinships with our loved ones as well.

3. PORN DESTROYS MARRIAGE. I don’t think I have to explain how damaging it is for a spouse to find out that his or her spouse has been watching porn. It signals a multitude of hurtful thoughts to the victim of the situation, which may include the following:

  1. “Maybe my spouse doesn’t think I’m attractive enough.” Particularly for the men who are addicted to porn, this kills your wives’ self-confidence and self-worth in the relationship. As sexual beings called to love on our wives, our duty is to reserve our sexual desires and satisfaction to love our wives with as whole of a heart as we can offer. On our wedding days, we vowed to love and protect our wives. This is not only from the dangers of this world but also from ourselves. We know fully well of how dangerous we could be in our sinful habits. And there might not be much else more hurtful than our wives knowing and feeling that they are not good enough for us. It is our duty to prayerfully be in our knees, asking for strength to live lives that reflect Christ’s righteousness and love our wives that reflect Christ’s love. Shame on us if we cease to do so. Yet, I understand that pornography is not just a male problem. Sisters, will you not also seek to honor and love your husbands by preserving your sexual passions for them?
  2. “Maybe I’m not that special to him/her.” It was never the wedding ring that symbolized marriage in Scripture. In fact, that’s a Roman Catholic invention. Rather, the symbol for marriage in Scripture is sex. Thus, as sex is the symbol to point to the highest union between human beings in this world, it is to be preserved and treated with great caution and great care. Flinging our sexual desires around everywhere shows that we are not devoted to this special relationship we have with our spouses. Sure, you could state that you’re not necessarily having sex with other people outside of your spouse. But if Jesus points at the heart, I think we ought to examine our hearts too.
  3. “He/She is cheating on me.” This could be two-fold, as it really could signal towards a cheater’s tendency as one who does not value the specialness of sex within marriage. Also, it could be that the spouse feels cheated on by those his or her spouse watches online. Is this not asolutely right? At the heart, what difference is there between sleeping with another person that’s not your spouse and lustfully watching others interact with sinful sexual acts? In both cases, your desire for sex is not for your spouse in the context of your own special marriage but in a context outside of your own marriage. Habitually watching porn is the equivalent to sleeping around with different people frequently, as both expose a lack of contentment with your sexual interaction with your spouse in your marriage.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that our body parts belong to our spouse. Thus, it is used not to satsify our own sexual needs but paints a beautiful picture symbolic of all of marriage where spouses give of themselves to one another in sacrificial and generous love. In marriage, our spouses are the object of our love and affection. Thus, sex serves as an instrument of loving our spouses and showing them affection. However, when sex and porn become our god, we reverse this order to make our spouses serve our sexual desires. This objectifies our spouses and is harmful beyond measure to those we have been called upon to show Christ-like love toward. This also applies to those who are single, because porn addiction cannot be erased overnight through a wedding ceremony. Single brothers and sisters need reminders and gospel-centered guidance to direct passions away from lustful thoughts and desires through life in the church, fellowship, and ultimately finding worth in the true master who protects his own.

Yet, I fully understand and know the temptations and difficulties the world presents before our very eyes to make porn addiction so difficult to contain.

1. PORN IS SO ACCESSIBLE. In relation to the way porn addiction controls the reward-related system of the human brain, the priority to fill this need often rises to the very top. The problem our society poses for us is that sex is displayed in every which way we turn. For starters, pornography is extremely accessible online for no cost at all. In addition, there are internet ads, Facebook posts and pictures, Instagram posts, etc. that might trigger the porn addiction that craves the dopmaine level sexual satisfaction brings.  This, then, easily can point one to those sites taht are so accessible.

2. PORN CAN EASILY BE HIDDEN AWAY. Due to the privacy of porn, nobody might know of one’s struggles with it, making it all the more convenient. In a church culture that often shames sinful Christians, this can be something easily slid underneath the rug. In turn, the lack of urgency directed toward this sin issue works hand in hand with how much deeper one can fall in the destructive cobweb of porn. Hiding one’s sin brings him or her further and further away from a cure tosuch addiction.

Accountability is absolutely necessary when dealing with porn addiction. I truly do believe that this is where the community of grace comes in. A note to pastors: Nobody will come to you with their problems if you’re condemning them on the pulpit. There is already an overwhelming sense of shame for those who are struggling with porn. Would this shaming not turn them more inward and cause those struggling to hide their problems furthermore? A practice of admitting one’s problems on the pulpit caters more to those who have problems so that they could have confidence in knowing that their pastor might understand them. Let’s face it. Pastors are not saviors. Pastors point to a savior, so pastors don’t have to carry the burden of being perfect. The community of grace points corporately to one savior who died for sinners. It confesses together that each part of the body is fallible, but the head is looking to bring them to glory one day. Its trust is in Jesus, not in man’s opinion or approval. Let’s build our communities to look more like this, where sinners come together to be helped and guided to loving a committed God.

I believe that a proper view of God needs to be set in place for this to happen. Both legalism (too much emphasis upon works) and antinomianism (lack of emphasis upon works) lack a gospel vision, because the gospel states neither that our works dictate our salvation nor that our works are unimportant. Rather, it places to the forefront Christ’s works above ours. This mindset does away with the notion that our deeds and self-righteousness equate to our acceptance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, it also does away with the notion that our deeds are unimportant, for it was because of our deeds that Christ died. Then, do we not find it necessary to use our deeds to live for him?

Contrary to what legalism might suggest, neither legalism nor antinomianism have a high view of God. Both suggest that one’s view of God is equivalent to the way one portrays the law. Legalism shows that one’s satisfaction and joy can be found in one’s performance. On the flip side, it also suggests away from Christians’ assurance from damnation through the grace received in Christ. Ironically, this lowers one’s view of God when elevating one’s view of the law, because God is thought of in relation to the law instead of vice versa. Antinomianism also lowers one’s view of God by lowering one’s view of the law. As the law is good and comes from God, it ought to be honored (though we fail it). Dishonoring the law and dishonoring the commands of God is disregarding the holiness of God himself. Then, the gospel of grace is not the middle way between these two thoughts, because it points to the worth of one’s deeds in relation to the law of God through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ. The law is no longer a burden, but it is a blessing. A high view of God and his law means that he is an unattainable God, unless he provides a way for you. Jesus calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) as the one who tore down the curtain and veil to provide access to God as the “new and living way” (Heb. 10:20). There is no access point to God without Christ, but that access comes through his work and the laws he fulfilled. Thus, if the laws point to him, who are we to diminish them or use them for our own misguided achievements?

Therefore, the growing problem of pornography within the church must be dealt with in grace, because “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). Christ, who died to set us free from the tyranny of the law, can also guide our passions away from sinful addictions. May our churches and our fellowship point to him, not to our own self-righteousness or others’ wrongs and flaws. If Christ died for our sins, he’s covered every one of them. We can be rest assured that he who died for our sins will help us through them in this life of sin.

[1] India, for one, shows around 90% of teens starting from the age of 10 start watching porn regularly.
[2] Addicere, in Latin, means “to hand over” or “to enslave.” Addictus is the past participle of this root, carrying over the nuance of one “handed over” or “enslaved.”

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The Poison of Porn

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