“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water." - Jeremiah 2:13
Ever since the beginning we have been searching for connection. Our ancestors Adam and Eve were created to be in relational harmony with God, each other, themselvesand their environment. And when sin entered the scene all aspects of that relational harmony were severely damaged. And we have been yearning for something more all our lives. All through the centuries we have sought through many ways to get back that relational harmony that was lost at the dawn of creation.
Fast forward to today. Our culture has sought to alleviate our dissatisfaction by focusing on the relational harmony that is found in the interpersonal relationship aspect of our lives. While at the same time minimizing the other aspects of relational harmony. In short, our culture tells us that “sex” is the answer to the ennui of life. It has a total disregard for the aspect of relational harmony with the divine. It mildly entertains the idea of being in harmony with ourselves. And is paying lip service to being in harmony with the environment. If we are honest with ourselves our lifestyle is actually consuming the environment rather than being in harmony with it. We think we know ourselves yet are still surprised to find ourselves doing things we wished we did not do. And the climate of “self” has pushed out any hint that we need to be connected the God. But at the same time we know something is wrong and we can’t put our finger on it.
We hunger for something, but we do not know what it is we’re looking for. We want to consume. Our culture today is obsessed with consumption.
We are inundated with the message that having a new consumer good will help us in our quest for harmony and sex has just become another commodity to help us meet our needs.
Nowhere is the consumption of sex more prevalent than in pornography. Those who view porn are consuming sexual images. The people in those images are being paid. If they are not, the ones who produce the images are definitely being paid. No matter how you look at it, porn has an aspect of vendor and customer. In short, porn is prostitution on camera. An act that God intended for intimacy between a husband and wife has now been reduced to a business transaction. God is grieved.
“The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” This is a quote by Bruce Marshall from The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith. It has been mistakenly attributed to GK Chesterton, but no matter who said it, it is a very poignant quote when understanding the issue of porn. We all grow up in a climate of sin where we know something is wrong, but we don’t know what it is. One way that men and women try to satisfy this longing is to focus on the physical ecstasy found in the sexual act. Not knowing that the answer to their longing is found not in the physical but in the spiritual. The relational harmony that was with God in the beginning is still part of our being but it is flawed and in need of much repair. There is a reason why Solomon writes the following; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).
So we - as broken individuals - seek solace in those temporary pleasures that we can find, rather than face the reality of our situation and deal with the root of our problems.
In his book Samson and the Pirate Monks, Nate Larkin says: “Porn is not my problem it’s just my preferred solution to my problem”. This brings us back to the verse from Jeremiah quoted above. As God’s people we know that he is the solution to our problem (thirstiness). But we disregard his solution (spring of living water). And we come up with our own solutions to our problems (cisterns; insert your favourite sin here). The problem is that our solutions only work temporarily (cisterns are leaky). I can tell you from experience that porn is a very poor cistern. All it did was numb me from the reality of life. Praise God that reality broke through, and his grace was/is sufficient to cover my sin.
When I grew up I did not consciously decide that I was going to be hooked by pornography. It was the sin within me combined with the sin outside of me that slowly altered a good God-given desire within my heart. When tempting Adam and Eve, the enemy used the legitimate need of hunger to begin his deception of our ancestors. “The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye” (Gen. 3:6a) So also when I progressed from childhood to adolescence my legitimate need of sexual expression was influenced by the culture around me. Further, as Eve saw the the fruit as more than just food, but “also as desirable for gaining wisdom”(Gen.3:6b). Likewise, sex was elevated in my mind as the “magic fix” for all my problems. This coupled with a lack of clear counter-cultural teaching from both my family and the church resulted in the elevated status of sex in my understanding of what really mattered in the world. Also add into the equation that I was shy, and any of my attempts to express my desire were met with disdain by the girls I liked, drove me further to areas where I could express my sexuality without any risks of rejection. Pornography is a medium that allows exactly that; expression of sexuality without any rejection. The truth is that porn took a good God-given desire and twisted it into something shameful and filthy. I’m pretty sure I was not the only one in this predicament.
When Pastor Tim taught about sex last year, he showed us how our society has separated sex - first from procreation, second from marriage, third from another person, and finally from our bodies. Truly, we live in challenging times.
Porn has been that factor in our society that separates sex from the other person. It is a cancerous, soul-diminishing pandemic both in society in general and the Church in particular, and it is getting worse.
I grew up in the era of skin magazines. These promoted and perpetuated the objectification of women in our society. Today, those magazines are for all intents and purposes obsolete. They have been replaced with porn sites on the internet. These now promote and sustain the subjugation of both men but particularly women in our society. Yet our culture refuses to acknowledge this problem and this under-current affects us in ways that we just unwittingly accept. A pair of sociologists by the name of Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker wrote a book called Premarital Sex in America. Here is their response to the notion that pornography is harmless and benign, “On the contrary pornography now affects virtually everyones relationships” and they go on to back up the following statements with empirical evidence.
1. People who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance.
2. A significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships and then shrink the marriage pool for women.
3. All women we argue are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behaviour and their appearances to the images and style of pornography.”
If ‘crushingly unrealistic’ doesn’t get your attention I do not know what will. My road out of my addiction to porn started with an acknowledgment that I had a problem and that I needed help from others to bring me out. After I became a believer, my porn issue persisted. After countless times of promising God to not do it again I humbled myself and enrolled in the long program at Living Waters (now Journey Canada). I heard from one of the leaders that the program is not a sexual problem based program but a discipleship program.
Being a disciple is the key to recovering from this addiction. If I am a disciple I can come to realize how much God loves me.
And it’s because he loves me that he hates sin so much, because he knows what it does to me. If I am a disciple of Jesus I can see people as made by God loved by him with immeasurable worth, not as objects for my consumption. If am a disciple, I learn that the gospel is the only solution that will fix my problem, and that my problem is not solved by myself but in community. It’s interesting to note that when God spoke through Jeremiah he said: “my people” not “you” have committed two sins. This tells me that I’m not alone in committing sin, and that it is in community that we can also turn to the source of living water rather than our broken cisterns. This why I have started a group to help men with online sex addiction. I know that this sin like most sin is best dealt with in community not in isolation.
In closing here are two quotes from St Augustine.
“Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” If you do not know Augustine’s story, he had an issue with lust in his youth but knew that God was calling him to Himself. He knew the standards and held back initially, but eventually surrendered his life to Jesus to become a man of God. A lot of western culture was influenced by his writings and thoughts. I like to think that he at one time probably thought that sex was the answer to his problem. However, later after he matured as a person he wrote this;
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” This says a lot, when we go to the source of living water, we find rest for our souls and we don’t have to dig anymore cisterns.
If you want to learn more about some of the affects of porn on our society I would encourage you to come and see the documentary Over 18 on April 29th at 7:30PM.
Zoltan Laszlo Miklos has been attending Redemption for a long time. He started following Jesus in his last year of high school. When he is not at church he can be seen riding his bicycle to work wearing some bright orange shorts - which is his wife Cheryl’s favourite colour. When he is at work he has tried to subdue the earth by beating it with the 46,000 landings (+/- 100 but who's counting) of the various airplanes he has flown over the years. It has not worked yet but he keeps on trying.