BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
Several months ago, a high school student asked to interview me for a school project on pornography. I thought his questions were very insightful, and I asked if he would mind if I were to share our dialogue with all of you.
1. What does the Bible say about how we are to view love and sex?
The Biblical definition of love is finding your joy and satisfaction in helping others to prosper in the eyes of God. The Bible teaches that sex is given as a gift exclusively to husbands and wives in order to express their unique and deep love and intimacy due to being “one flesh” in the sight of God (Genesis 2:22-25). Any sexual experience outside of a life-long marriage covenant between a man and a woman is a sin against God and damaging to those involved. Sexual activity is intended to give pleasure, joy, and assurance to one’s spouse – it is not a self-focused activity.
2. As a pastor, what are your thoughts on how pornography has affected our view of love and sex?
Pornography is inherently selfish and self-centered. It removes sexual experience from the loving, trusting intimacy of the marriage relationship and turns it into an ugly, abusive form of self-gratification. It objectifies men and women who are made in God’s image, treating them as mere tools of our own pleasure. It is not loving toward others (according to the definition above) and it’s deeply damaging to ourselves. Viewing other human beings who are made in the image of God in pornographic images is a violation and degradation of them (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).
3, I know that society mainly views sex as a way to procreate, but are there any other reasons as to why God created sex?
Actually, I would say that our depraved society views sex as a human right for everyone, no matter what their circumstances or commitments, that they see it as disconnected to the marriage relationship, and that they see procreation as an unfortunate side-effect of seeking pleasure through sex. But a primary purpose of sex as given by God is to fulfill the mandate given at creation, to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28) in the context of a committed family. But it also has the God-given purpose of expressing deep love, trust, and intimacy through shared pleasure, in the context of a lifetime commitment to one’s spouse.
4. Why does the Bible say to wait until marriage to have sex? What’s the difference between having sex inside a committed relationship while not being married vs. being married?
Sex is an expression of the meaning of the marriage covenant - a vow to God and each other (and only each other) to be “one flesh” for the rest of your lives together. That vow is before God and His people, to both of whom you must be publicly and legally accountable. Without that vow and accountability, the relationship between a man and a woman isn’t truly a committed relationship, and without the security of a life-long covenant of marriage, there cannot be the deep trust and intimacy that a sexual relationship represents.
5. What would you say to someone who has struggled with pornography and sexual temptation and inappropriate thoughts?
I would want a person struggling with lust and pornography first to understand the serious violation of God’s law that it represents, and the devastating damage that it does to that person and any future relationships that they hope for (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). But I would also assure them that sins of this type are a common part of our fallen nature and that there are many people and resources available to help. Most of all, I would want them to know that God is ready and anxious to forgive if they turn to Him for grace and help to repent.
I would stress that the battle against sexual sin must be focused on your thoughts and desires, not just your actions. If the battle line is drawn in your mind, then victory there will keep you from acting outwardly (Matthew 5:27-30).
I would stress that none of us can overcome sexual temptation by relying on our own willpower. We need the help and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so the battle must begin with a commitment to faithfulness in using the means of grace that God has given us for our spiritual strength. Daily time in Scripture reading and study, prayer, and regular time in personal and corporate worship are essential.
I would want to dig deeper into what lies beneath the desire for sexual gratification. It could be an inappropriate way to deal with boredom or a lack of purpose in life. It could be a way to escape unpleasant circumstances or avoid dealing with problems. It could be a result of some kind of abuse. It could be a sign of weak faith and spiritual immaturity.
I would stress the need for a well-thought-out plan for what repentance looks like, and then finding one or more trusted and spiritually mature accountability partners to regularly hold you to the plan. You need someone who cares about you, who will commit to asking you regularly how your journey of repentance is going.
Another part of the plan is to eliminate access to pornography and other temptations as much as possible. Scripture says, “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). There are internet filters like Covenant Eyes that can be a great help while growing in strength against the temptations, but the goal is to, by God’s grace and enabling, to control your desires in holiness when faced with temptations, since it is impossible to eliminate opportunities in this culture. We need to grow in the Lord to the point where we aren’t willing to do something that will displease and distance ourselves from Him in order to get a moment of selfish pleasure that leaves us alone and empty.
I would also point someone to the many resources that are available to help in the battles. Harvest USA is a Biblical ministry focused on helping people overcome many kinds of sexual sin, including viewing pornography. CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) also has many resources for the struggle against sexual sin. Biblical Christian counseling may also be needed, especially for identifying the deeper desires and wounds that are driving the desires for sexual sin.
6. I know that there are many Christian young men out in the world who struggle with pornography, but desire to be married and have children one day. Do you think their struggle with pornography could permanently change the way they view marriage and having children?
Yes, a common lie of Satan is that pornography and self-gratification for sexual desires is a private sin, only affecting the one participating in it. But pornographic images stick with us, and they damage our view of the purpose of sexual relations and set up unrealistic expectations for our wives. God intends for us to be “imprinted” upon our wives as the sole focus for our sexual desires, so by viewing many images of other women we are weakening and ultimately destroying that connection to our present or future wife.
Because pornography is inherently self-centered and selfish, it trains you to be selfish in your sexual experiences with your future wife. But as it is designed by God for marriage, sexual expression is intended to please and satisfy your spouse, and when that is the goal and desire, it is truly healthy and satisfying.
It is also a common but wrong belief among young men waiting for marriage that they won’t have to control their desires once they’re married – that sexual gratification will be available whenever desired. But they soon discover that there will be many reasons why you will need self-control in regard to your desires for sex after marriage, including your wife’s pregnancy, illness, times when you’re separated from one another, etc. If you don’t learn to control sexual desire before marriage, you will set yourself up for infidelity in thought and possibly in deed after marriage.