Let’s cut to the chase… pornography has been cited as an epidemic of our age.1 It is ubiquitous and easily accessible. There is a lot which can be said on the subject from many different angles and different perspectives, but for now, I’m going to present four motives that should animate every Christian to fight and flee pornography. I hope to discuss how to fight and flee pornography at some point, but for now, we’ll deal with why.
Every Christian must fight and flee pornography out of:
- Love for Christ
- Love for the Church
- Love for others
- Love for him/herself
Love for Christ
If you are a Christian, you must fight and flee pornography out of a love for Christ. To put it another way, you should love Christ more than you love pornography.2 Loving God (including all members of the God-head) is foundational to the Bible. Consider the role of love in Deuteronomy 6:5, the greatest commandment as cited in Matthew 22:37, and the grave warning given to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4. Christians should passionately love God with every aspect and facet of their being.
So what does it look like to love God? 1 John 5:3 says “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments…”. To love God is to obey Him. To explore this connection between love and obedience, let’s consider the opposite of obeying God: sin.
Starting in Genesis 2-3, God “planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9). God then creates woman as a helper for man (Genesis 2:18). So God has created man and woman (given them conscious existence) and has put them in a wonderfully designed garden (a.k.a. paradise) to cultivate and care for it (Genesis 2:15). He has given them everything they need and has provided for their needs both aesthetically (the plants in the garden were “pleasing to the sight” - Genesis 2:9) and practically (the plants in the garden were “good for food” - Genesis 2:9). And yet Adam and Eve still disobey God (Genesis 3). What makes Adam and Eve’s rebellion so heinous is that there is no reason for it. As discussed here, when Eve was tempted in Genesis 3:6, there is absolutely no reason for her to be tempted by the fact that the fruit was “good for food”, “a delight to the eyes”, and “desirable to make one wise”. She already had access to fruit which was good for food and visually pleasing throughout the garden (see Genesis 2:9). It is likely she also had personal interaction with God Himself which means she had no reason to look at the forbidden fruit as a means of additional wisdom. From the very beginning, sin is going outside of God’s boundaries in the pursuit of something deemed more valuable/pleasurable. Thus, sin is characterized as hatred and despising God.3
Sin demonstrates a hatred toward God; obedience shows a love for God.
Like the fruit by which Eve was tempted, pornography is not part of God’s desire for your life. In Genesis 2-3, God establishes marriage; any pursuit of sexual satisfaction outside of marriage is outside of God’s plan. If you are indulging in pornography, you are pursuing pleasures outside of God’s design and are despising God. And you need to stop. You must fight to love God more than you love yourself (whom you please with pornography). On the other hand, if you are fighting and fleeing pornography, you are seeking to live within the boundaries set by your creator. That is demonstrating a love for God by obeying Him. If you are a Christian, you must love God enough to obey Him.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments”4
Love for the Church
If you are a Christian, you must fight and flee pornography because you love the Church. When God saved you, He made you part of His Church (see Ephesians 2 - especially Ephesians 2:11-22). This means that you are now part of a group of people whose primary mission is to glorify God (see Ephesians 3:20-21). Practically, you must consider how you, as an individual, are glorifying God (which is largely covered by the last section) and how you, as an individual with spiritual gifts, can help members of the Church glorify God. If you are a Christian, God has uniquely given you gifts to build the Church (Ephesians 4:1-13). Consider 1 Peter 4:7-11:
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Part of loving the Church is using your God-given gifts to help the Church glorify God.
Additionally, there are the “one anothers”. The “one anothers” are passages throughout scripture which refer to how believers ought to treat “one another”. For example, in the 1 Peter passage quoted above, the phrase “one another” occurs three times. Part of what it means to love the Church is carrying out the “one anothers”.5 Galatians 5:13 says:
“… do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (emphasis added)
So what does this have to do with pornography? Pornography limits your ability to love the Church (and those in the Church) in three ways: practically, spiritually, and publicly. First, pornography limits your ability to practically love the Church. Pornography drains your time, energy, and sometime money which prevent you from being able to serve as frequently and powerfully as you ought. Second, pornography limits your ability to spiritually serve the Church. When I say “spiritually serve”, I mean that a Christian who is watching pornography is grieving and/or quenching the Holy Spirit.6 He or she is not submitting to and walking by the Holy Spirit.7 If you are not walking by the Spirit, you will be limited in your ability to lay the bricks that build the Church into God’s temple.8 You are hindered in your ability to exercise spiritual discernment and lack the spiritual wisdom to make Godly decisions in your own life. Third, pornography limits your ability to love the Church publicly. Especially in the internet age, someone, somewhere can almost always view your internet usage patterns. This means that professing Christians who indulge in pornography can misrepresent Jesus Christ and give unbelievers a good reason to reject and malign Him.9
If you are a Christian, God has done miraculous work in your life by giving you spiritual gifts and making you part of His Church. Indulging in pornography limits your efficacy in this mission by restricting your ability to glorify God and help others do the same. You and I must fight and flee pornography out of a love for God and a love for His Church.
Love for Others
If you are a Christian, you must fight and flee pornography out of a love for other people. The command to love others has been called the second greatest command behind the command to love God.10 Love is characteristic of God and ought to be characteristic of those who are born of God.11 Before considering the many aspects of this love for one another, let me first stress why we must view others this way.
I’m going to give two reasons why we must love other people (whether they are disciples of Jesus Christ or not). First, human beings are made in God’s image. Genesis 1:26-30 describes the creation of man as distinct from the rest of the animals. Notice that the inter-trinitarian dialog says “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” in Genesis 1:26. Humans are made in the image of God. So what does this mean? There are many different views on this subject, but for the sake of brevity in this article, I argue that one of the key characteristics of being made in God’s image is the fact that human beings have a non-physical component. A human being is not purely physical. As such, each human being has intrinsic, essential value which transcends his/her physical appearance and physical conditions. Because each human being has dignity given to him/her from God, we must love other people. The second reason why we, as Christians, must love other people is because of the love that God has shown to us. God loves each one of us immensely and we need to show this same love to those around us.12 So how does this relate to pornography?
In our battle against lust and pornography, we need to consider our responsibility to show love to other human beings. You must learn to see fellow human beings as having inherent, essential dignity because they are created in God’s image rather than viewing them as an object primarily for your pleasure. Specifically, we should be motivated to fight and flee pornography from a love for those who are trafficked and abused for the production of pornographic content and from a love for our spouse (present or future). We’ll consider each of these a bit more below.
Love for the trafficked and Abused
Our responsibility to love others should motivate us to flee pornography because the production of pornographic content involves and perpetuates trafficking and abusing human beings.13 I will not delve into this topic any further in this blog post, but make no mistake: when you are watching pornography, chances are good you are either watching someone who has been abused or are watching something that has been used to abuse others. There is no neutral ground. Your participation makes you complicit and God’s wrath and justice will one day be poured out on all evil and injustice.
Love for your Spouse (present or future)
If you are currently married or plan to be in the future, you have or will have a massive responsibility to love your spouse.14 Even if you are not currently married and may not even know your spouse yet, you can live today in a way that demonstrates love by abstaining from sexual sin which would destroy a marriage relationship. The decisions we make today can truly demonstrate love even for someone we don’t know yet. In fact, this is a wonderful picture of God’s pre-existing, initiating love with which He loved us long before we loved Him, knew Him, or were even born!15 You can love your spouse (present or future) with the decisions you make today. If you’re not currently married, imagine being able to tell your future spouse “I took radical steps to love you even before I knew you”!
Love for Yourself
Finally, if you are a Christian, you must fight and flee pornography out of a love for yourself. Yes, it is ok to love yourself (in a certain sense)! For example, if you are a Christian, you should be a good steward of your body, soul, and mind.16 You should remain faithful to Christ even through hardships because of the wonderful joy that is set before us.17 According to Paul, you should steward your money well because it has benefits for you (specifically because it lets you “take hold of that which is life indeed”).18 Glorifying and obeying God are not antithetical to what is best for you.19 On the opposite side of the tracks, the negative effects of pornography have been well documented.20 Pornography has negative consequences which should drive us to banish it from our lives.
Proverbs 6:20-29 says that one who pursues a harlot is like a loaf of bread, a man who takes fire into his bosom, one who walks across hot coals, and one who is heading for inevitable punishment. Pursuing pornography has negative effects on the viewer in addition to the fact that it is outside the will of God.20 You should love yourself enough to protect your heart and mind from the assaults of pornography. I would also be remiss if I did not emphasize the wonderful joys that are awaiting Christians in heaven. We will be with God and enjoy Him forever (see Psalm 16) and will be rewarded for our good works (see 2 Corinthians 5:6-10). In light of eternal joys and rewards, pornography becomes weak and pale. As C.S. Lewis put it in The Weight of Glory:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
If you are a Christian, you must fight and flee pornography because you love God, love the Church, love others, and love yourself. According to the Bible, a love for each of these will drive you to fight and flee pornography. Later, I hope to give some practical advice for this battle, but for now I hope this provides some energy for the fight.