Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 19, Bibles, Husbands, and Abuse

gun-on-bible-spritual-abuseAbuse is gross! And the absolutely slimiest and most putrid kind of abuse is abuse using the Bible. To take the good word of God and to use it as a weapon against your wife, disgusting!

So imagine my surprise when I found myself unknowingly contributing to such abuse. To be sure, I don’t know of any specific case, but someone may have read my blog and walked away with a false and dangerous belief.

I would like to correct that today.

As God does sometimes, he smacked me around. I was innocently reading the Desiring God Blog, minding my own business. I saw an article by Jonathon Parnell call When Sex Should Stop. The title piqued my interest. Then God began the beating. Jonathon lays out the case that we as a people (and I as an individual) has been misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Let’s look at those verses.

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The verses are fairly straightforward. married couples should make sure to have regular sex unless there is a need to separate to “devote yourselves to prayer.” As a guy who is a big fan of sex, what a boon. Now I have a verse for my wife!

Jonathon (and the Holy Spirit) don’t let me get away with that. He clarifies that this is not Paul saying, “My body is mine AND your body is mine!” This is saying that we each have authority over each other’s body. Far from verses I can use to manipulate my wife into more sex, these are verses that press me to serve my wife with sex. She has authority over my body. My body is there to serve her.

That hit me hard. I have pressured my wife before. It was very hurtful to her. I wasn’t treating her as a fellow heir in Christ but as a body that I had a right to. Rather than asking why she doesn’t want sex, I became irritable and entitled. Remember, the Bible does say her body is mine, right? The fact is, I didn’t marry a body. I married a person. She wants to be loved as a whole person, not as the only body the Bible says I can have.

Gentlemen, we have felt entitled to our wives for too long. I feel that because I believed wrongly about sex, that I may have lead you to use the Bible as a bludgeon for your cravings. God expects us to be like Him and to love her sacrificially like Christ loves the church. For my part in leading you away from that, I’m sorry.

Please read the article. Jonathon Parnell has challenged us to love our wives by being their servants. He’s right. We can do so much better.

-Chip

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Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 14, A Plea to Fathers

child_fearFor many (if not most) men who struggle with porn, the person who introduced them is not who you might think. It is not that group of boys mom always told us to stay away from. It isn’t that creepy guy on the street corner. It is most likely not even the internet.

It was dad.

Our dad’s didn’t mean to introduce us in most cases. It is often a boy finding his dad’s stash of porn. Sometimes it is that dad now thinks that since his son is thirteen, it is somehow OK to let him see nudity in a movie. We walk into the restroom and there he is, looking at porn.

Whatever our father’s intentions, we were exposed. Slowly the roots of this sin sunk deep into our hearts. Soon we were more deeply ensnared than our father’s ever dreamed.

Not only did they introduce us to porn, but they also lost all credibility with us. Dad looking at porn and he is strictly warning me not to look at porn. They failed to confess their own sin and in doing so, they taught us how to cover up our sin. The moment we needed them to stand strong for us and strongly tell us how dangerous this path is, they cannot. The would not.

Jesus had some very strong language for just such a situation.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. (Luk 17:1-2 ESV)

Let the weight of that sink in. Let it pull on your neck. Imagine hurtling toward the water and a certain drowning. The water rushes over your face. In your fear, you forgot to take a deep breath before you went under the surface. You scream and the last air you will ever breath leaves your lungs. Sinking, you keep sinking. The terror of this moment fills your mind. There is a deep pressure and hunger in your chest, but no air to fill it. Your thinking gets fuzzy. You pass out. You die.

It would be better to do that than cause a little one to sin.

So now most of us are fathers. It’s our turn to carry this mantle and to set the path for our children. Are we doing any better? It seems that we are doing worse! Now instead of a magazine, they slip from their rooms late at night and watch us masturbate in the light of a computer screen. We are guiding them into hell.

Gentlemen, be afraid. This warning is for you. Those little hands and feet will do what you do, say what you say, look at what you look at. We can do better. Here are my thoughts on how to keep millstones off your neck.

Repent

Read my article How Do I Stop Looking at Porn and get the first steps of your repentance going. It is no good to your family if you can’t get a handle on your porn problem. Jesus has the grace you need. It really is a question of whether you will take it.

Tell Your Kids About Your Struggle With Porn

The way to struggle and not be a hypocrite is to be honest. When our fathers told us to avoid porn and kept looking at it themselves, they lost all credibility with us. The way to get it back is to tell them how much pain it has caused you. Have your wife sit with you. Let her talk about how much this has hurt her as well. If you let your kids see the pain that this has caused, you set for them a deep and powerful warning of this danger. You will have served them well.

But When Do I Tell Them?

This is difficult, but here are some good rules of thumb. The average Western child is exposed to porn at age eleven so I think you really should have this conversation by age eleven if not sooner. If your kid is thirteen, he is most likely looking at porn already so this should be addressed. If he is fifteen or older, get up right now and talk with him. Your time is short and your son is an addict waiting to happen and your daughter has about a 1/4 chance of being one as well. Talk with them right away.

I know that this is a hard thing. It is humiliating. It is necessary. Have the courage to talk with them.

Tell Your Daughters Too

It may seem like this conversation is only important for your sons, but it is key to also have it with your daughters. She is going to run into men who struggle with porn in her life. She needs a good example of how someone fights their own pornography problem.

Dad, enter stage left.

If you set this good example, she will be much better equipped to see men and understand how they should be behaving. She’ll know because her dad showed her. This is key for her as she is selecting the most important man in her life, her husband. Guess what dad, he will have a porn problem at least 85% of the time. She needs to be ready for that.

The other reason your daughter needs to know is that there is about a 1/4 chance that she will struggle with pornography as well. You need to set a good example for her of how to deal with it. Please, please tell your daughters of your struggle.

Keep Talking About It

There is this myth out there that any discussion about sex is a single conversation. In reality, your kids will have many, many conversations about sex. The question is how many of them will be with you. Take a good look at your kid’s friends, are they the ones you want educating your son. I hope not.

This requires courage and conviction. Keep talking about sex, porn, sexting, and how it impacts their lives. I think there is a generation that is getting most of their sexual knowledge from the porn industry. We need to change that.

The Cross

Remember that none of us are up to this. You and I can’t carry this load. It is too heavy for us. We will fail. But God can succeed through us. Love your kids enough to have these conversations. You will find the strength to do that by looking hard and deep at the cross. See how much he did for you. He went through hell for you. He loved you so deeply that he willingly had nails driven through his hands and feet for you.

Now go and love your kids like that.

-Chip

P.S. I should be clear that I was not introduced to porn by my dad. I am the sort of sinner who doesn’t need help to find porn. So the content of this article has little to do with him. He taught me how to love a woman deeply, not how to stare at images of other women. 

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 8, Prepared for Battle

A soldier walks into the office of the General. He stands erect and salutes the General.

General: Sit down soldier.

Soldier: Yes, sir.

General: So I understand that your platoon lost a skirmish yesterday. Several men died and many of your barely escaped. How are you feeling?

Soldier: Well, a little shaken up sir. But glad to be alive. 

General: Tell me what happened. 

Soldier: Well sir. we came down into the ravine to take out the surface to air missile sites. It was going well when we were ambushed. We fought as well as we could, but we were overwhelmed and outgunned. 

General: What sort of weapons did the enemy have?

Soldier: Pistols sir. 

General: They beat you with pistols?

Soldier: Yes sir. There were a lot of them. 

General: Weren’t your rifles more than a match for pistols?

Soldier: Oh, I didn’t mention that. We didn’t bring our rifles. You see, it is a long walk and if we didn’t bring the rifles then we didn’t need to bring ammo and the whole walk would be more enjoyable.

General: You went to a battle without guns?

Soldier: Yes sir. Very innovative of us, don’t you think. 

General: Innovative, sounds more like stupid. Even without the guns, what about those tanks I sent. 

Soldier: We decided against taking them. You see, we all prefer the tanks in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The tanks you sent just weren’t the kind we like. 

General (with some irritation): With no tanks, how did the retreat go?

Soldier: Not well sir. We could only run slowly without boots. 

General: You didn’t have boots?!

Soldier: Blisters sir. And most of us prefer flip-flops. Less sweaty feet that way. 

General: How did you survive?

Soldier: Well, Calderazzo did bring a tank and he was able to scare them off. Though I have to say that when that thing fires, it could really cause a headache. 

General: Now you’re complaining about the tank!

Soldier: The one in Call of Duty really is better. 

General: Do you feel like there were any important lessons learned from this battle. 

Soldier: Yes sir. Me and the guys want to ask you for more air support. We really feel like that would help a lot. 

General: Get out of my office!

I think the conversation above is something like how God hears our complaints about giving in to temptation.

“God, how could you make such a tempting world?”

The answer might be to ask: Did you pray? Did you read scripture? Did you find support in other believers? Did you confess you sins? Did you fast?

When the answer to all of the above is No, then you should feel like the soldier who walked into battle without boots, without a gun, and without a clue. God has provided us everything we need to fight this battle. It is because of our foolishness that we turn what should be certain victory into certain defeat. Today, we put down the slingshot and put on our AK-47 and climb into our tank. Victory is not only possible, it can be assured.

Prayer

The strongest weapon you have is always the radio back to base. They’ve got planes with bombs for quick action. Prayer is your radio back to God. Start your day with a check-in. Be real. Tell the General how it is going and what your concerns are. He cares about you. The air support is great because it is there at any moment. Are you in the thick of a battle? God wants to hear about it before, during, and after the fight. He loves you. Give prayer a chance.

Bible Reading

This is a not a Sunday School answer. Do you think that the tank was a pat answer to the General above? Sure it’s the right answer to so many questions, but this is a right answer with a barrel and an armor-piercing shell in it. The Bible is what really fuels and gives your prayer it’s power. Promises like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and “but God is faithful and he will provide a way to escape (temptation) so that you are able to bear it.” If you are not reading your Bible, don’t be surprised when you lose.

Confession

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:15-16

Confess your sins to God and confess the to other believers. This is key to victory. I think many an addict will ask God why he didn’t help more and God will look down at them and ask why they didn’t confess to other believers. Don’t be so spiritual that you think the church is unnecessary. The church is crucial. Go and confess to God and another believer.

Pro Tip: In my article How do I Stop Looking at Porn, I clarify that you MUST confess to your wife but that she should NOT be your ongoing accountability. Please don’t think that telling her alone is enough. It isn’t and you risk crushing her with the responsibility of helping you keep clean. Find someone else. 

Fasting

Hypocrisy Alert: I have never fasted, not even once, in my life. So take what I am about to say as wisdom I have heard from others. Not what I have experienced myself.

Fasting is a good tool for assisting someone to break away from an addiction. I have known men who went on fasts from sex to help them overcome a pornography addiction and they felt it was helpful. I can say that some of the most spiritual people I have known, they fast. If you are struggling in a rut, a fast very well may be the weapon you need to bring to this battle.

Gentlemen, there is grace for us. We have an armory full of joy that is stronger than our temptation. The question is whether we will put it on or walk into battle in flip-flops.

-Chip

Hypocrisy Alert: This article could lead you to believe that I read my bible every morning and pray 16 times daily with a constant deep and indwelling sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This is simply not the case. I struggle to read my Bible and I struggle to pray. In this article, I am showing you where the armory is and, many times, I then walk into battle with my flip-flops. 

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 3, Seven Lies I Believed

Lies

Some of the most compelling lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves. In my own struggles with pornography, many of these lies were key helpers in fighting off my conscience. Even as my heart screamed, “You are rationalizing this” I needed some half truth to quiet its incessant voice. Here are a few of the better lies I would tell myself.

1. It’s only looking and nobody is getting hurt, so it must be OK.

This lie is nearly true. If nobody is getting hurt, then it is OK. The problem is that whenever someone is sinning they are getting hurt. I am hurt by lusting (Matt 5:28) and she is hurt by degrading herself in front of a camera. God is right to be outraged that I would treat a daughter of his like that when she is hurting herself (Romans 1:24).

2. As long as it is consentual, it is OK.

There are no relationships that involve only two people. In every relationship there are three: you, me, and God. So even when a girl and I agree that I should look at images of her while she profits from that, God is a third party who is NOT consenting and does NOT approve. It is not good enough that two consenting adults agree when there is a non-consenting God watching.

3. This won’t hurt my marriage or my view of women.

This is ridiculous because I know how much my porn problem has hurt Sam. Also, when my lust is out of control, I clearly do NOT view the women in my life in a loving way. We as Christian men are responsible to treat every woman as a mother or a sister (1 Tim 5:12). To look at a woman as an object for my pleasure most assuredly warps my view of women and hurts my marriage.

4. I won’t be happy unless I give in this time.

God knew what he was doing when he made sex. It is between a man and woman who are married to each other. He did this not as a burden for us to bear but as the ideal way to maximize our joy. A person makes love to a person, not a body. There is a holistic person who has dreams, fears, joys, and sorrows. It is the most delightful to enjoy a whole person. It is degrading to our own bodies (1 Cor 5:18) and we are using the bodies God has set aside for himself to dishonor him!

5. I don’t need to confess my sin to anyone except God.

Sin is like a fungus. Usually all you need to grow it is a warm, wet, dark place. When we hide our sins in the dark recesses of our lives, we plant it in a place that it loves to grow. You and I are too self-deceived to ever really deal with our sins on our own. This is a major function of the Church, to help us overcome our sins in a gentle, but firm way. You are lying to yourself if you think that you can do this one alone.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

James wasn’t stupid and your sin is not the exception. Tell another believer about your sin.

6. I am a good person.

No, you’re not.

7. I have sinned too many times. God won’t forgive me now.

This is one of the most insidious kinds of pride. We spend most of our lives convincing ourselves we’re good people. When the evidence of our sin becomes so overwhelming we feel we’re so evil that the stunning promises of scripture (1 John 1:19, 1 Cor 15:9-10, John 3:16, Mark 3:27) don’t apply. How arrogant! God says he can handle our sin. Who are we to say he can’t?

If you feel this way, there is a lot of hope. It is much better to be overwhelmed by your sin than to think that you aren’t that bad. Check out my post on Encouragement for Sinners. There is hope for you: lots of hope.

-Chip

Up Next: Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 4, How do I stop looking at Porn?