Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 20, What if He Won’t Change?

Man using a laptopA recent commenter to the article My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do asked a very important question. She had tried bringing the problem to her church and it hadn’t helped. She asked, “How on earth does someone (have hope)?” 

I pondered on this for some time. This usually means that I didn’t have a simple answer for her. It also meant that if she asked, there were a hundred women who had the same question. The topic needed to be addressed.

Everything I mention below assumes that you have confronted him about his sin in a gentle and firm way, that you have prayed for him, that you have brought it to your church, and he continues to look at porn. Those are the first steps. But what if those don’t work? It is certainly a complex question so forgive me if my answers don’t apply to your situation. The details matter. I hope to offer some help.

A Brief Theology of Marriage

Biblical marriage is a life-long covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It comes with obligations and benefits. It is meant to somehow present a picture of Jesus and the Church. The connection is so clouded that Paul says “this mystery is profound.” Within that picture, the husband stands in the position of Jesus and is commanded to love and serve his wife in a deeply sacrificial way (see the book of Hosea for even more on that). The wife, in the position of the Church, is to respect her husband and submit to his authority.

The Bible repeatedly refers to a married couple as “one flesh” and Jesus is insistent that God has made it this way. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Within that, Jesus does teach that if there is sexual unfaithfulness, divorce is permitted but not required.

One final clarification, despite Jesus’ discussion of lust being adultery (Matt 5:27-28), lust by itself is not a Biblical ground for divorce. The sin in the heart is profoundly evil, but the act of infidelity is the grounds Jesus allowed divorce.

Now, what can a wife do if her husband will NOT stop looking at porn.

Keep Praying

The fact is that God alone can change his heart.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1Jn 5:16 ESV)

There can be some debate about what a “sin that leads to death” is, but it would be a small category of sins (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unbelief, etc…). Pornography on its face would not be such a sin.

So we are left with the instruction to pray for our spouse’s sin. Don’t give up. Sometimes God pushes us to the end of ourselves precisely because he can then be given the glory for what he is about to do. You have a Father who loves you and wants to grant your prayers, keep asking him to bring your husband to repentance.

Be Gentle and Firm

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV)

To correct a husband who is looking at porn and won’t stop, the wife should not be quarrelsome but should be challenging her husband with patient and gentleness. Take note that God is the one responsible to “perhaps” grant them repentance. I love how Paul describes that they “may come to their senses.”

Know that There is Justice for You

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21 ESV)

I have more often heard Christians say, “Don’t get bitter” but then fail to explain why you should not be bitter.

If your husband is not a believer when he dies. He will awaken facing the God of the Universe. He will be accused of every sin he ever committed. The evidence will be certain, overwhelming, and damning. He will look and no one will come to his defense. As he raises his eyes to see the Judge, he sees a deep rage: a profound indignation for every single time he failed to love you. The almighty God of all things will loudly declare to all living things that he is condemned.

He will then be dragged, screaming to a lake of fire. As he stands on the brink of that lake, he will know without a doubt, that he will never escape it. As he falls toward the flaming waters, he feels the dread of his last moments of comfort. The pain of contact will sear him to his bones and as he screams, unable to bear this for even a second, he despairs knowing that it will never, ever end.

I think that is sufficient justice for what he has done to you. God will make sure that every sin is avenged.

If your husband is a believer when he dies, then all of that suffering mentioned above was pour onto Jesus. Jesus was so afraid of this that he begged God for another way. Yet, he loves you and your husband so much, he willingly went to the cross. He endured an eternity of Hell in a few hours. For the only time ever, he was rejected by God. He loves your husband that much.

Your husband was the one who stayed up late looking at porn, Jesus was the one who was declared guilty. Is it fair? Of course not. It speaks to the profound character of God that he would choose to suffer for sinners like us.

If Jesus has taken your husband’s sin away, who are we to say that justice has not been done. It is that same mercy that holds you and I out of Hell as well.

So rest in the fact that justice will be done. At some point, you will look at the depths of Hell or into the eyes of Jesus and say, “that punishment is enough for what he did to me.” Trust God that he is not a wimp but a warrior who will see all of this made right. In that trust, don’t be bitter. Surely God’s justice is so severe that we would have compassion on those who will suffer so much at his hands. God does the justice so that we are free to love.

Have Hope

Back to the original question, how should we have hope? The answer is that our hope can never be in a husband, child, church, or friend. Those are good things, but if we hope in them, we will be stunningly disappointed. No, we hope in a sweet and kind Father who loves us so much. He will never, ever fail us. Your hope is in your true husband, Jesus, who knows what you are going through and has “been tempted in every way.” He loves you. He will set this right.

Some trust in chariots (or husbands) and some in horses (or friends),
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Ps 20:7,8 ESV)

I know this is hard. God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He just promised that it would be worth it.

-Chip

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Why Do You Use that P word so Much?

We as a people don’t quite know what to do with that P word. Of course, I mean pornography. It clearly makes people uncomfortable, so why use it.

The reality is that I am not given a lot of good alternatives  to use for pornography. Porno, naked ladies, naughty pictures, erotics, smut, vice, dirty books, girlie magazine and skin flicks are alternatives, but all of them sound disingenuous. I don’t want to sound like I am minimizing the harm done by using a softer sounding word. So, in my judgement, I don’t have a good alternative.

Pornography (which I often shorten to porn) is a precise term. The word actually has deep linguistic roots. Jesus himself used the word porneia (which means illicit sexual sin) at least three times in his ministry. Combined with the grapho (Greek for the verb to write) which later was incorporated in English to cover pictures as well (like in the word photography). Pornography literally means pictures of illicit sex. 

So the term is precise, accurate, and uncomfortable. This is fitting in a way because we really shouldn’t be comfortable with pornography. Maybe it is right that the term gives us a sick feeling.

However you view the word, I wanted you to know why I use it. Feel free to disagree, but if you do, please let me know what term I should be using instead. Thank you all for reading. It has been very encouraging to me to watch this blog’s readership grow and grow.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 7, The Shame We Feel

Humiliation, disgrace, embarrassment, degradation, darkness…Shame. How have I become someone who would do something like this? I know better. My parent’s taught me better than this. Yet I can’t stop. I know it is hurting those I love. Well, I thought I loved them. Would anyone who really loved them keep doing the things I’m doing?

The tension between the sin in my heart and my very inflamed conscience was overwhelming. It was years later that I finally was able to label that sick feeling in my gut: shame. To know it’s name helped a little and when I was able to name it, I saw how common it was.

The whole issue of pornography causes a great deal of shame. Just about the only place you will hear about it in pop culture is on late night comedy as a punchline. This would lead you to believe that pornography use is not common and only lowlifes look at it. Unfortunately, it is all too common. So why is it so common and yet so rarely discussed.

Shame.

We as a people do look at pornography, but the vestiges of our Victorian heritage remain. We are ashamed as a people of our behavior. One symptom of this is that I can see the volume of people who look at my blog. As of this writing, I have been about 650 views and only about 10 comments comments that weren’t from me. As I discuss these topics, to attach your name to this blog would mean that you were somehow associated with…well…this shameful topic.

Please don’t take this as me begging for more likes and comments. That’s not the point. I’m thrilled that you came to blog whether or not you leave a comment. But look into your heart. Ask yourself why you feel that shame. Is it because you are looking at porn yourself? Maybe you think that only the frightfully evil look at porn and don’t want your name associated with it. Maybe your husband is looking at porn and it is too painful to discuss with anyone. And maybe you just have nothing to say. Again, I want to reiterate that this is not about the likes on my blog. I want you to learn more about yourself. Look at your own heart.

The Shame we Should Feel

Let’s face it. Porn is shameful and we should feel dirty looking at it. We are supporting men and women who are harming themselves by stripping in front of a camera. We are enabling them to hurt themselves while they enable us to hurt ourselves. And it seems that increasingly debased kinds of sexual images follow. It grows on us until we are seeing nudity that it increasingly divorced from any real person. We want things that can’t and shouldn’t exist. Our souls shrink to the point that we think only about sex, yet it is not satisfying to us.

What a waste! What a shame! The human soul was designed for much bigger and much better pleasures than the image of a woman prostituting herself to you! The shame we feel is more than justified. The prophet Daniel said it well.

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him. Dan 9:8-9

And how blessed we are that mercy and forgiveness belong to God.

Set Free From Shame

That sick feeling deep in your soul, the one that says that you are sick and twisted; it is right. You are sick and twisted, but not without hope. There is a way to get rid of your shame: give it to someone else!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-11

Jesus chose to stand in the courtroom of Heaven. The Father will read the charge, “You looked at pornography repeatedly. You knew better. You even went to church and pretended things were going well in his spiritual life. You watched as women degraded themselves to please you. You applauded those girls as they destroyed themselves. Are you guilty of this?!?

“I am,” Jesus will reply.

“But he didn’t!” will fill my heart. How can he take the blame for my stupidity!? But Jesus did take that shame from me and chose to be guilty of all my shame. He was beaten for a fool like me. He took my place.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 1 John 2:28

If I abide in him, I do NOT have to shrink in shame when he comes back! In fact, I have no right to be ashamed any more. The shame I felt was mine. The forgiveness I feel is mine. God, for His own mysterious reasons, forgave me. And if God says I am clean, I am clean indeed.

The only real shame would be to turn Him down.

-Chip

Up Next on 10/7: Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 8, Prepared for Battle

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 5, My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do?

Feel-Trapped

It is easy to look at my own addiction and think of the person it is effecting most, ME!

Or is it me?

Maybe I am the perpetrator and my wife is the victim. She didn’t do anything wrong and yet she suffers for what I have done. She has to deal with the feelings of inadequacy: the question, “If I looked better, maybe he wouldn’t look at porn.” She is the one who feels the pressure to maintain the impossible body that Hollywood projects. She’s the one who feels in her heart that her husband’s straying mind means she isn’t worth much to him. Maybe even not worth much at all.

Yes, my wife was the real victim.

This article is for you, the real victims. The wives of the men who continue to look at pornography over your objections. I hope to offer you a little comfort, a little understanding, a little advice, and a little hope.

First off, your husband’s pornography problem is not your fault. He may blame you, but this is a darkness that lives in his heart. You are a victim of his behavior and it is OK to be hurt by his behavior. He owes you a serious and sincere apology for what he has done to you.

Second, no matter how good you looked, he would have this problem. I have known many men with beautiful wives who have profound pornography problems. I know this is very hard to believe: it feels so backwards. The most important man in your life who should be looking at you is instead looking to the photoshopped girls on the web. I want to say it loud and clear, Your are beautiful because God made you beautiful. The reason he is looking at other women is because HE IS A FOOL! God provided the grace to look at you and only you. Your husband has not taken God up on the offer.

Third and most importantly, Jesus loves you. He is your real husband. Jesus has eyes only for his Church and that is you. There is grace for you today. There is justice for what is being done to you.

So what do you do? Here are some practical things you can do to serve your husband and help him be free. Jesus has some guidelines as to how you should pursue this.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  Matthew 18:15-17

Let’s pay careful attention to Jesus and let Him do the work.

1. Pray for him.

Your husband is trapped. He may even want to do the right thing but sees no way out. The Holy Spirit is his only hope (and what an amazing hope He is). Pray for him. Tell God how much it hurts you and pray that he will set your husband free. A warning for you though, the grace of God for men like me is usually to beat us until we submit to Him. It is the rough hands of a loving Father.

2. Confront Him.

Confront him about his sin. Be gentle and firm, but most of all be firm. He is sinning against you and it is OK to press him to stop sinning against you.

It is important to know your husband as you approach him. Consider what would be effective in helping him be honest with you. Again, gentle and firm. Remember that he will need to take some actions to demonstrate his repentance. Maybe he can follow the steps in my article How do I stop looking at Porn. It is OK to point him to help and resources, but give him room to choose his own path. Usually, the first few times he is caught he will try to do it alone and it won’t work. Have patience with him.

There are two responses that warrant escalating the situation. The first is that he is defiant that it is OK for him to look at porn and that you should understand.  It’s time to move on to the next step.

The second response is more common in Christian communities which is to promise to stop looking at porn and then repeatedly fail AND fail to try getting support. If he simply will not join a group and keeps failing, treat that as him saying he won’t change. Then it is time to move onto the next step.

3. Confront Him with Support

Jesus was serious about bringing in a brother. If you know someone who has struggled with porn in the past and particularly someone who is involved in the recovery process, bring in that guy. Otherwise find someone you both know and trust and bring that man (probably not a good idea for this person to be a woman) with you to confront your husband. An elder or pastor from your church would be a good choice as well. If you have the option, find someone who is a straight shooter. Your husband needs things to be made crystal clear.

Confront your husband again. Your husband will react badly to this, so be prepared. This is scary for him, but redemptive. Reaffirm that you love him and that you want him to be free. Let the other man press him.

If your husband is defiant or passively not taking action after this meeting. Go to the next step.

4. Bring in the Elders of Your Church

Yes, you read that right. Your husband is in willful sin and is not pursuing overcoming that sin. He needs to be held accountable by the body of Christ. This is not God’s punishment of him. This is God’s grace to him. A loving Father is correcting his son. He uses his church and He is using you. Have the courage to love your husband like Jesus does.

Remember that loving your husband is to fight the sin in his life. This sin is a cancer eating out his soul. Love him enough to fight for him even when he won’t fight for himself. Bring in men who will press him hard and correct his foolishness. Love him enough.

5. Submit to the Church

Depending on how strong the leadership of your church is, this process may not be something they are ready for. Even if they handle the situation poorly, submit to their authority. God doesn’t require us to be right, just to be faithful. Your husband may talk his way out of it. Your pastors might turn out to be wimps.

Even if the church wimps out (which will be common), know that you have also shown your husband how seriously you take his sin. If he is a true believer, then the Holy Spirit in him will be beating him from the inside out.

Should the local church fail you, what then? Keep pressing on your husband firmly and gently. Keep pulling in men who can keep pressing your husband to repentance. Your faithfulness is the grace of God for your husband.

6. Find a Woman Who Has Gone through This

You are not alone. Look for a woman has had similar struggles. This is a messy business and you need support. She can be hard to find but keep looking for her. There is grace for you in walking with someone who has gone through what you are going through.

7. Have Hope

I can’t tell you how this will turn out. It may be that it all goes badly for you. Remember that your only true and lasting hope is in Jesus. Whatever the church does, be faithful to Jesus. Whatever your husband does, be faithful to Jesus. God has placed you here right now. He appointed this suffering for you and He loves you. Cling to Him and let’s watch together what He is going to do.

I want to say one more time that this is NOT YOUR FAULT. The preceding paragraphs could feel like it is your responsibility to change your husband. It is not. He is responsible to respond to the Holy Spirit and seek repentance. It is your job to be faithful to Jesus and love your husband enough to push him. There are no guarantees except that there is a loving Father watching you and giving you the grace you need to carry this heavy burden.

-Chip

Up Next: Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 6, The Rest of the Story

The Victim

The Victim

The masked man approached the victim

In his hand a knife gleams

Placing the blade upon the skin

While the victim is lost in dreams

The masked man cuts the flesh

Dividing muscle, tendon, and bone

And through it all the victim lay

Without a whimper, without a moan

The masked man is dispassionate

While he destroys the fleshly life

Coldly, calmly, professionally

He battles the victim in silent strife

The victim resisted the attack

Until the masked man was done

Then the surgeon took off his mask

And announced that the cancer was gone

-Chip Gruver