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Marriage and the Power of Porn

Marriage Under Attack
Christian marriage is under attack on many fronts.  One is the abandonment by the spouses of time with each other due to work, children's activities, and even commitments to the church.  Other fronts are the ever-changing role expectations in the culture, and even the need for both spouses to work because of economic burdens resulting from poor financial planning and accumulated debts. 

It is often easy for couples to talk to friends about these problems.  It is easy to relate how we wish we had more time for each other and for devotions together.  It is easy to relate how we are sick of working so much to pay the bills.  It is socially acceptable to have these types of problems.  Talking about them even heightens our sense of personal piety – we reassure ourselves that at least we desire a better Christian life.  Yet there is a very real and spreading problem in Christian marriages which is not being openly discussed.  It is hiding in the shadows. It is one which Christians are too embarrassed to mention for fear of the shame it might bring.  It is the problem of sexual sin.  American Christians live in a sex-saturated culture.  Our society daily bombards believers with images of beauty and sex.  From billboards to magazine covers, there is no escaping the rising flood of sensuality.  Even the record-breaking PG-13 movie Titanic had nudity and implied fornication in it.  Moral standards are being continually lowered and, as a result, marriage and family are being greatly affected.  With the advent of the Internet, individuals are capable of accessing the worst types of hard-core pornography in the secrecy of their homes.  The statistics are startling.  The Internet has over 150,000 porn sites, with 200 new sites added (on average) everyday.  Now individuals who would never think of going to the "seedy" section of town, can click the mouse a few times and see, download, and even interact with sexually explicit materials.  Secrecy is easy to achieve, with the only "paper trail" being a credit card number.  For those who are too timid to even let that out, there are all sorts of free sited designed to allure and draw people in.  Individuals can get sexually explicit materials into their homes without their spouses having a clue.  Once someone is lured into pornography there follows the erosion and eventual destruction of the marriage and family.  Single people can be corrupted to the point where their prospects of pure and healthy marital relationships are seriously impaired.

Why Sexual Sin is so Damaging
The reason that sexual sin is so destructive to a marriage is that it strikes at the relational core of a couple.  When God created Adam and Eve they were created for sexual intimacy as well as to work together to accomplish their calling.  Jesus, quoting Genesis 2:24, states that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, (Matthew 19:4-6),  While this has emotional aspects, the word "cleave" carries with it a sexual allusion.  The man joins physically with his wife, and they become "one flesh."  It is significant that it was only after the Fall that Adam and Eve became embarrassed by their lack of clothes.  Speaking to men, but with a principle applicable to women, Proverbs 5:18-19 states, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.  As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breast satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love," (NAB).  This passage clearly points to the pleasures of sex, and it is obvious that this verse is not telling the husband to let her intellect satisfy him.  Surely Proverbs 31 does point to other critical characteristics of a good wife,  but we must never neglect the Biblical admonitions to enjoys sexual contact with our spouses.  The Biblical love poem Song of Solomon is quite graphic in its description of sexual interaction in marriage – showing both the wife and husband sexually desiring one another.  The Apostle Paul clearly states in I Corinthians 7:2-5 that husbands and wives are to enjoy each other and not to deprive each other sexual pleasure.

The point of all this?  That God created and values sexual pleasures within marriage.  It is a foundational expression of intimacy.  It is also a critical spot for Satan to corrupt and thus destroy a marriage.  There can be no doubt that sex outside of marriage is sin and forbidden, (Exodus 20:14), yet people reason that pornography is different since they do not actually engage in physical sexual contact outside of marriage.  This is clearly a rationalization.  People involved with pornography are still sinning through lust.  Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:27-28 about adultery in the heart speaks directly to this issue.  Lust is sin, whether it be acted on or not.

A very real danger which follows from this is that sexual sin is progressive and enslaving.  It is significant that Psalms 101:3 states that if we look upon the impure things they will reach out and grab us. This means that looking on something like pornography enables it to actually reach out and clutch a hold on us.  The Bible is saying pornography has an actual power over people.  Proverbs 7:22 describes the sexually sinning man as one in chains.  Sexual sin is a form of bondage. The way this occurs is that using pornography inevitably leads to further sin.  There is a Law of Diminishing Returns that occurs.  Images which once satisfied the desires of the viewer become boring, and there is a temptation for more graphic images.  This leads the viewer down the road from pictures of partial nudity to pictures of certain sex acts.  When these images no longer satisfy, the viewer is tempted to seek out other images or even get gratification from "real" people.  This bridges the gap from pornography to adult clubs and prostitutes.  The Law of Diminishing Returns explains how a man can start out being satisfied by looking at partly-clad women on a web-site, and end up involved in illegal activities.

Pornography distorts and corrupts the attitudes of the viewer slowly but surely, and this obviously impacts on the relationship with the spouse.  The spouse is perceived as either someone there simply to satisfy sexual need, or as someone incapable of satisfying such needs.  The spouse is no longer seen as a creation of God and a person to be loved.  The spouse is rejected and often a victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.  One the relationship has hit this point, the use of pornography is hard to conceal.  Tragically, by this time families are often destroyed and marriages left in ruins.

Even before this happens, sexual sin becomes in many people's lives what an old Puritan referred to as a sin of dominion, (Obadiah Sedgwick, Anatomy of Secret Sins, reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria, 1995, pp. 130-228).  People can be so dominated and controlled by a sin, that they feel like they have no control over their actions.  Individuals feel trapped and helpless.  Individuals feel the chain of bondage.

Since this slavery is at the core of the being, it cannot be defeated simply by a human promise or a prayer.  This is why it seems like faith fails the person who is struggling with sexual sin.  Instead of a quick-fix, there is a serious need for a deep healing work of God's grace. This requires, among many things, confession, accountability and counseling from a more mature fellow believer, (Matthew 18: 15-20; Galatians 6:1-5; James 5:16).

God promises in the Bible to transform us "by the renewing of the mind" (Romans 12:2). This can only happen as those struggling with sexual sin openly discuss it with their spouses along with the help of Christian counselors.  As long as the sin remains hidden, it will grow and strengthen its grip.  The need for early intervention seems clear.

Some Practical Hints
The problem with early intervention is that sexual sin is so easy to conceal in its early stages. Often the sin is hidden and not even suspected.  It is so easy to conceal in its early stages.  Often the sin is hidden and not even suspected. It is therefore important that spouses have open and honest discussions of these issues.

Since the nature of this type of sin is that it is hidden and secretive, wives may want to be aware of some warning signs.  Concerning the Internet in particular, one warning sign is if he prefers to be alone when on the web, or if he seems to quickly click the mouse to change the screen  when someone walks into the room.  In general, a significant change in routine or temperament may also be a warning sign of secret sin.  Be very alert to any gaps in accountability regarding time and finances.  A husband ought to be able to account specifically  for his time and money, and an unwillingness to do so is cause for concern.

Though no wife should be burdened the role of "watchdog" or "caretaker," a wife should not be afraid to come out and simply ask her husband if he is looking at pornography or is involved in other sexual sin.  She should watch his reaction for clues such as righteous indignation, anger, carefully phrased responses, or even just a blush.  If the question is asked with a display of genuine concern for his spiritual well-being, and not as an accusation, then a husband ought to respond in love.  Any attempt to dodge or deflect the question reveals the presence of some degree of sexual sin.  If a wife fears even raising such a question, then the couple needs to seek the counsel of their pastor.  Neither spouse should allow physical or verbal abuse to occur, and sometimes outside intervention is necessary.  Indeed, intervention is a Biblical command (Matthew 18:15-20).

Another important thing for a wife to remember is that she is not a fault if her husband is involved in sexual sin.  His decisions are his decisions.  She did not force him to sin, yet often a man will accuse his wife of not fulfilling his needs, even quoting I Corinthians 7:1-5.  Sexual sin is not the result of a lack of sex, it is a distortion of sex.  Underlying it is often a need for control, power, and escape.  While a wife can do much to help her husband who is struggling, she should not believe any attempt by him to shift the blame back to her.  Blame-shifting goes back to Adam and Eve, and must be resisted.  Repentance is a necessary step to freedom from bondage of sin, and repentance cannot fully take place if blame is being shifted.  Excuses do not reflect a repentant heart.

If you are a man struggling with pornography, here are some specific things you can do:
First, seek out a Christian brother with whom you can share your struggles.  You need to confess your sins to someone (James 5:16) and be held accountable by someone (Galatians 6:1-2).  This particular sin is not one which anyone can stand against alone.  The very secretive nature of it makes it impossible to be defeated in secret – other people must be involved.

Second, Romans 13:14 speaks of making no opportunities for the flesh.  You must disconnect the Internet or get a server which screens against pornography. (Having a Program Coordinator based “Net Nanny” is inadequate because most users can find ways to disable them.)  In general, you will also need to consciously change the places you go to and what you do so that you can avoid temptation.  Remember we often set ourselves up for sin before we sin by choosing to place ourselves in tempting situations.  The Bible says to,  “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Third, become involved in an accountability and support group like Harvest’s Crossroads group.  This provides accountability as mentioned above, and also is an opportunity to study what God has to say about sexuality, intimacy,  and issues of the heart.  It is crucial that those who struggle with sexual sin and pornography learn to think Biblically about themselves, women and God.  The Bible states we are transformed  by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  Part of the power of sexual sin is that we do not understand why we are so allured by it and how it enslaves us.

CONCLUSION
Both husbands and wives need to be alert to the sexual dangers inherent in living in modern America. They need to be willing to talk  openly about their struggles, needs and disappointments.  They need to be willing to look deeply at motivations and past events that affect their relationship with each other.  Since   sexual sin is so dangerous and powerful it is something which must be dealt with openly—with the help of a few trusted Christian friends.

Christian couples dare not keep sexual sin hidden in the shadows.  It will only get worse and destroy the family.  Until individuals and couples work through the bondage issues and face their own sin-nature, patterns of sexual sin will continues to dominate their lives and destroy their marriages.  The hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we can find restoration, reconciliation and victory.  There is hope for deep change and profound healing through the power of Jesus Christ.


Reprinted with permisson from Harvest News, a quarterly publication of Harvest USA. 

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