You might find this staggering (or you might not) but research indicates that 20% of all Christian women and 50% of all Christian men in the US admit that they are addicted to pornography. Not just struggling…addicted! And four out of ten pastors admit that they view pornography at least once a week. (Source: Freedombeginshere.org) And of all those that did not admit, I can’t help but wonder how many lied.
It would seem that pornography is a huge problem in the Christian Church. After all, we can hear it preached that porn destroys lives, families, communities, churches. And porn – with all its deceit and hypocrisy – is a contradiction to core teachings and principles of the Christian faith.
But I would argue that pornography is NOT a problem. It’s a symptom of the real problem. And if we identify porn as the problem, it will distract us from the real problem. Allow me to explain:
I spent many years of my life torn between two versions of myself – two separate “me’s” that were violently opposed to one another and disturbingly contradictory. In one version of me, I was a follower of Jesus, sincere in my faith and, by all appearances, living a Christian life. And for several of those years, I was involved in what Christians call “full-time music ministry” with something of a public profile. Many nights I was on a stage singing and speaking about God. But when I was alone and thought there was no chance of being caught, often the other me would take over. The other version of me wanted pornography.
It’s a tough way to live. Maybe you can relate?
I won’t go into all the sordid details of my addiction, but it involved a lot of lying to myself and those closest to me. There was a lot of guilt, shame, confusion and feeling absolutely defeated and ineffective as a follower of Jesus. I did everything I could think of to solve the problem of my porn addiction. I spoke to pastors, close male friends, counsellors, installed software onto my computer, had accountability partners, read books, went to Christian classes and joined self-help groups. Each presented a way, a technique, a system, a pattern of behaviors to help me tackle the problem of my porn addiction. I gave my best effort to apply these things.
And I prayed. I prayed that God would take away this temptation, this addiction. I cried out for God to heal me of my porn problem.
Nothing worked. Even though I was often and (sometimes for long periods of time – weeks, months, even years) able to to stay away from porn by my own self-disciplined defense and determination, the addiction was always there. Like a little, whispering demon sitting on my shoulder. My problem, my “enemy” of porn was always there, waiting for the next moment when I was weak, hurting and alone.
But there was a breakthrough. I am pleased to be able to report that God has healed me of my addiction to pornography. I cannot take credit for it. I did not do it. This healing was not as a result of my own efforts. He did it.
The breakthrough wasn’t a new technique or system or piece of advice. God Himself broke through. He broke through and performed surgery on my heart. He let me see that my use of porn was not the problem. It was a symptom of the real problem. A much deeper and bigger problem. The problem all along was me.
Prior to my healing, I’d always thought that it was right that I felt guilty about my porn habit. What I was doing was wrong and so I should be ashamed, right? I even used this condemnation as fuel – an inspiration if you will – to “get myself sorted out”. This all added to my false image of God – that He was disgusted with me because of my behavior. That I needed to be clean so that he would accept me.
Wrong! When God – His grace and His unconditional love – broke through to me, He showed that He doesn’t need, nor want me to sort myself out before I come to Him. He just wants me to come to Him as I am. He knows my pain. He knows my brokenness that would lead me to medicate with something fake like porn. He knows, yet does not condemn me. If I would only surrender to Him with all my junk – even the porn – freedom is available. His love, while convicting, is never condemning. He is the inspiration to change.
As far as I can understand, living without porn is NOT about trying harder, or building up my defenses, or being more disciplined, or maintaining a squeaky clean reputation, or being accountable to others, or working more diligently at my own personal holiness. All those things might be helpful or become involved along the journey of healing, but it’s more about giving up. Surrendering more completely to God’s Lordship over me – which includes my desires. It’s about repentance – not just for my sinful behavior, but from my sinful nature apart from God. It’s about a one hundred and eighty degree turn from where I was – everything I thought I knew.
It’s not about earning God’a approval.
It’s about being honest with myself. It’s about stopping listening to the lies that tell me that porn is the problem rather than merely being a symptom. I am the problem and Jesus is the answer.
So, I’d like to say very clearly that – no – porn is not a problem in The Church. Porn is a symptom of a much deeper problem. The problem is me – my sin-nature, my willfulness, my pride, my desire to fix myself apart from Christ. We don’t need healing from porn. We need to be saved from ourselves. I am the problem and Jesus – only Jesus – is the answer.
Watch my short vlog that’s along the same theme as this blogpost HERE.