BY STEPHANIE CHIAO
In December 2000, the National Coalition to Protect Children and Families surveyed five Christian campuses and found that 48 percent of males were struggling with pornography use. In a 2006 poll, Market Wire showed that 50 percent of Christian men and 20 percent of Christian women were addicted to pornography. These statistics show that not only are Christians living the same way as non-believers, but women are much more deeply entrenched in sexual sin than stereotypes suggest. For the sake of bringing healing to the men and women struggling with pornography, Christian fellowships should break the silence and secrecy surrounding the issue.
Currently, due to the lack of open dialogue, many people suffer the consequences of sexual sin alone and in secret. Some feel hopelessly enslaved by urges they cannot control. Most deal with feelings of shame, guilt, and self-hatred. Some even feel anxiety, not knowing when they will sin next, while others experience deep fear that one of these days, God won’t forgive them. As they all keep a part of their lives hidden, they distance themselves from others and from God, creating formidable barriers to personal prayer, fellowship, and healing.
An open conversation about pornography could help individuals struggling with it in many ways. First, it could provide the opportunity to encourage people to keep turning to God for healing. Enslavement to pornography addiction often cannot be overcome by willpower alone. Whether the reason for the addiction is a deeper unmet psychological need or an injury to the sexual instinct, God can bring healing. There is hope and healing to be had, for after all, God did not create people so that they would spend all their time and energy battling their sexual urges.
Second, a discussion of pornography can challenge individuals to confess and receive the healing that comes from confession. Confession, in addition to being an important spiritual discipline, can be a powerfully healing act. In 1 John 1, it is written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1:9, NIV). In Mark 1, John Mark writes that repentance of sin prepares the way for the Lord and for a baptism of the forgiveness of sins. In other words, confession and repentance leads to cleansing, forgiveness, healing, freedom, and ultimately greater intimacy with God. Confession is an act of dragging sin into the light, so that it can be dealt with by Christ who is in the light. We are called to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them,” (Eph. 5:11, NIV) so that we can receive the fruits of the light, which are “goodness, righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:9, NIV).
Third, by openly discussing sexual sin, fellowships can create a space where people feel comfortable confessing. People living with addiction may be thinking that few would understand the sin and are probably afraid that others will judge them with disgust. Discussing sexual sin provides an opportunity to show that many are struggling with the same sins and emphasize the fact that sexual sin is not worse than other sins. It is also an opportunity to remind the entire fellowship that we are all sinful and that we are called to be merciful to each other, participating in the restoration of lives broken by sin. Through discussion, fellowships can foster a community prepared to engage with the sexually broken and help build a sense that individuals can trust others with their sin.
Lastly, fellowships should address this issue because it impacts the entire community by affecting the person’s relationships. If the person is feeling shame, guilt, self-hatred, isolation from the community, and separation from God, it will affect the person’s ability as a witness, leader, teacher, or friend. Brokenness in one person’s life hurts the entire community, for “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5, NIV).
The subject of pornography can be very uncomfortable. But Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Mark 2:17, NIV). It is precisely these struggles that fellowships are called to confront. In fact, the church may be one of the few places that truly can bring healing to our sexual brokenness.