Everywhere you turn, she is there. In your grandparents’ day, finding her took some effort, but not anymore. She prominently displays herself on roadside billboards. Boldly, she hides in millions of websites, her lips dropping as a honeycomb, and her mouth smoother than oil. She loves to talk on the commercials and in the songs, and her message is as unmistakable as it is wicked: “Lie with me.” Distressing about this woman is that she makes an appearance, whether she is asked to or not, catching many—also children and young people—unaware. Even the world has become alarmed at her prevalence and how often she is viewed by men, women, young people, and even children—the statistics, across the board, are staggering. She is a part of a multi-billion-dollar industry.
She is the strange woman. Read about her in Proverbs. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
This woman, along with so much other sexual uncleanness accursed of God, is portrayed in written form, in still and moving pictures, and even in virtual reality. This is pornography.
We may not avoid this subject, even though we cringe at the thought of it. We may not shrink from it, for the Bible obviously does not avoid addressing sexual sin pointedly and frankly. Instruction and warnings in this area are necessary because we live in a sexually-depraved world; an unspeakably wicked culture surrounds us every day. Furthermore, the necessity of such instruction and warning is due to the sinful nature each of us yet has. Look no further than David, a true believer who was seduced by and complied with the lusts of the flesh. Christians are ensnared in pornography. Reformed Christians find themselves in its grip. Father and mother, do not think for a moment that your children are immune to this. Do not think that for a moment. Young person, do not deceive yourself that you would never look these things up. Remember Proverbs 7:26: “For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.” That is sobering.
Young people, you are in the crosshairs of Satan and the world. Satan and the world know how your hormones rage. Satan and the world know how impressionable you are. Satan and the world know how curious you can be. According to the literature, even pre-teens are exposed to pornography. No wonder we read of a father giving instruction to his son (Prov. 5:1); the wise father understands that his son is bombarded in this wicked world!
There are, of course, many mediums through which this attack is waged. We should be warned about them. Let us limit ourselves to three.
First, this uncleanness is readily accessed on the smartphone. The phone, making life easier in so many respects, also provides the means for accessing so much filth: pornography accessed in less than five seconds on a device small enough to be taken anywhere! Second, movies certainly should not escape our attention. Have we, Protestant Reformed young people, lost the battle against movies? Do we piously shun the movie theater, but then bring the movie theater into our living room? Among the multitude of other reasons to reject movies and renew our fight against them, here is one: the vast majority of them are filthy, and the holy God abhors such unholiness. Third, pornographic material is found in the storyline of books. Explicitly sexual content is intertwined with romance to make for material appealing to girls and women. This reminds us of an important point: not only can men be enslaved to pornography, but women can be too. The reality is that also young ladies and women, young ladies and women in the church, are not immune to the allurements of pornography, although it might take a different form for them.
Pornography is enslaving. What the world calls “addiction,” Scripture identifies as enslavement or bondage. Pornography binds young people like a chain. Consider the following example. The thirteen-year-old adolescent began looking at inappropriate images out of curiosity. Once he started, it became harder and harder to stop. At age eighteen, he was not only looking at these images, but he was enslaved in a way he could have never imagined. Then he began dating. He said not a word to his girlfriend about the pornography, for fear she would break up with him. Soon, they were engaged.
On the day of the wedding, he silently promised himself that he would never look it up again. Six months into the marriage, the burning lust returned with a vengeance. He tried to hide it from his wife, but he could not. She was devastated. This is not an uncommon story—in the church. Pornography leaves behind a trail of brokenness and anguish, both among the unmarried and the married. Pornography is enslaving.
Pornography is sin. The viewing of the strange woman and other such uncleanness is a violation of the seventh commandment of God’s law. Chaste Joseph understood well that to lie with Potiphar’s wife would be great wickedness and sin against his God (Gen. 39:9). David called his adultery what it was—sin: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Ps. 32:5). Increasingly, there is found in the church world a numbness toward this sin. The lines are blurred to such a degree that some hardly recognize it as sin anymore. The reasoning is as follows: “An electronic relationship is not nearly as harmful as flesh and blood fornication;” “What’s so evil about an occasional Internet search—I can’t help my raging hormones;” “A little indulgence now and again isn’t so bad, and it’s almost expected for people my age in their teens or early twenties…once marriage comes around, things will be different.”
Beloved young people, pornography is sin. God detests it. No impenitent adulterer or fornicator shall inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9, 10).
Perhaps as you read this article you say, “That’s me. I am enslaved.” If so, in sorrow of heart, in brokenness, confess your sin to the Lord. God, by His Word and Spirit, certainly renews His people to repentance and a true sorrow over sin.
There is much shame connected to sexual sin, also the viewing of pornography. Shame is the suffering and pain of soul associated with guilt and disgrace. But do not despair. You must know something very beautiful about Jesus’ suffering: it was the suffering of shame. The shame that Jesus knew was not the kind associated with personal guilt, of course; the shame Jesus knew was the shame associated with the sin of His people imputed to Him. When the crown of thorns was planted on His head, it was the suffering of shame; when He was spit on and buffeted, it was the suffering of shame; when He was stripped of His clothes and hung on the cross, and laughed at and mocked by those passing by, it was the suffering of shame. That is good news. This is the shame we deserve to bear everlastingly. But Jesus has delivered us from that. Jesus suffered all this, that we might be clothed in His perfect righteousness. That is the gospel. Marvelous, is it not?
Whether or not you are in the grip of pornography, there is a calling for you. Flee! Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife. I Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee fornication….” God’s wisdom is, “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8). If someone assaults you with their mouth (violation of the sixth commandment), you might consider taking some time to talk to them about loving the neighbor. But sexual sin is different: if you are faced with sexual temptation, do not linger, explain, or reason—just run! From every appearance of Potiphar’s wife in print or on screen, flee! Come not nigh the door of the strange woman, wherever her door may be found in our digital age!
There is another calling: seek help and accountability. The communion of saints is a beautiful truth! If you struggle with pornography, seek help from your pastor, a trusted elder, a teacher, or a mature friend. But even if you are not entrapped right now, seek out a person you trust to keep you accountable in this world awash with temptation. You are not alone, dear reader; you fight side by side with other soldiers in the church militant!
Do not minimize the power of God’s grace. What a power, that grace of God in Jesus Christ! His grace is stronger than that enslaving sin of pornography. His grace breaks that heavy chain. God gives grace truly to hate this sin and to flee from it. Do not despair! The last part of Lord’s Day 44 (Heidelberg Catechism) applies here: “…that we constantly endeavor, and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God….” This is your life of thankfulness for so great a salvation in Christ Jesus.
I would be remiss if I did not address parents. Parents, may your home environment be such that sex is properly and regularly discussed as soon as you discern your children are ready for it. Warn again and again of the dangers of pornography—do so as a part of your regular devotional life in the home. Fathers, be an example of purity before your children in your own behavior, public and private. Be sure that you are knowledgeable of the latest technology, and that you have set safeguards in your home to prevent the viewing of pornography. Allowing young people unlimited and unmonitored access to digital technology is folly. God give you much wisdom. Do not despair, parents: although you raise children in an evil world and the task is difficult, your comfort is that God is sovereign.
There is no better concluding word on this subject than I Corinthians 6:19, 20: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
In future articles, we will look more broadly at our calling according to the seventh commandment, and that from a positive point of view—our calling in the areas of singleness and marriage.