Common Does Not Mean OK!
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” - 1 Corinthians 10:13 (emphasis mine).
The verse above reminds us that as we face temptations, we do so as part of the fallen condition of sinful man. I’d like to think today about a common pattern of sin that is very prevalent in American culture, including the church. That sin is pornography.
Truly in today’s world, pornography is common beyond what our grandparents or great grandparents could have imagined. Go back just a few generations and pornography was challenging to find, since you had to have direct contact with someone who owned magazines or videos for you to look at. Today? Every computer, cell phone, and often video game consoles provide the opportunity for instant access to internet porn. Tim Challies provided some statistics at a glance in this April 2017 article, and the Covenant Eyes website statistics are shocking, with high percentages across many demographics and internet hits and money earned in the billions. My point in this post, however, is not to review the statistics but to share some important reminders and biblical encouragement with you.
One of the many dangers with sin that has become common, is our sinful hearts begin to justify our own sin by comparison. Ordinary is confused with acceptable. Normal is distorted into moral.
Porn Use and Men
Porn use among men is undeniably prevalent. This is probably not news to you. I know of a couple who sought biblical counseling with a presenting problem of the husband’s porn use. This was not shocking in and of itself; however, what was shocking to me was that the wife was more concerned about other issues. Why was she less concerned about the porn use than about her in-laws? She said that in her Christian high school, she was told that porn is very common among men, so it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Common? Yes! A big deal? Absolutely! And yet, our culture is becoming more and more accepting of this terrible sin which is impacting so many marriages (both current and future marriages). One of the statistics given in the Covenant Eyes report stated: “Teens and young adults aged 13-24 believe not recycling (56%) is worse than viewing pornography (32%).” This is tragic! Yes, porn use may be common, but it’s not ok! If we in the church believe it’s so common but that it’s no big deal, we may fall into one of these traps:
1. We may fail to teach young men and warn them about the ravages of porn. By the time we get around to talking with them, they might already be exposed beyond what we can imagine.
2. We may fail to call men to account for their “common” yet sinful sin. We thus miss the opportunity to minister grace and help a fellow brother in need.
3. We may fail to serve a man’s wife or future wife. She, too, needs to hear that it’s not ok.
We in the church must take on this issue and not give the impression that because it’s common, it’s no big deal. It’s so common, it’s so available, that we must speak up early and often. We cannot afford to be silent.
Porn Use and Women
When looking at the statistics, it’s easy to gloss over the prevalence of porn use among women, because men historically have had greater enslavement to porn. It is wrong, however, to consider porn “a man’s problem.” Porn is a sexual sin, and women are not immune to it. I remember my first look at porn at around age 16 or 17, and I’m old enough that this means I didn’t see it on a phone, computer, or game console. I saw it the old-fashioned way – in a magazine meant for women, shown to me by another girl who basically said, “Look at this!” What I saw was hardcore porn. For some women, the gateway to porn use is often romance novels. While these may seem innocent, they often lead to a desire for more and more explicit porn use for women. Online porn, sexting, and all forms of porn availability have made this sin just as available and enticing to women as it is to men.
Recently, I was humming a song by a woman whose music our family listened to for a number of years, and this line caught my attention: “So dear husbands, listen to our plea…Guard your eyes and guard your purity.” Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with this thought; however, it is incomplete. When we continually talk about sexual sin, especially porn, as a man’s problem we may fall into one of these traps:
1. We may neglect to address this as a temptation to sin for young women. We inadvertently give them the message that they aren’t subject to this sin. We miss the opportunity to warn them of the dangers that are equally theirs. We need to be more open and define this sin more accurately.
2. If we fail to believe that women struggle with this sin, we may even minimize their admissions of sin, thereby adding to their guilt and shame. We miss the opportunity to minister the gospel to precious sisters enslaved by the same sin for which their male counterparts may more readily receive a listening ear and biblical help and hope.
3. If we don’t think that women struggle with porn, we may be missing that there are hurting husbands out there who also need our help.
As Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 10:13, he doesn’t say that common temptations are ok. He said, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Rather than allowing the sinner to be ok with his sin, Paul gives the hope of the gospel. Yes, temptation is common, but God is faithful! There is hope for escape, endurance, and victory in Christ!
In this sinful, fallen world, porn is common. It is common outside the church; it is common inside the church. It is common among men; it is common among women. But it is never ok. Let’s talk in a way that’s truly biblical and calls sin what it is. Then, let’s help both men and women and point them to the gospel hope which is theirs if they are in Christ.
A wonderful resource for battling against the sin is Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. The author states, “People who are trapped in the deceitful web of pornography do not need more information about pornography. This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.”
With grace at the center, this book offers an eight-prong approach to fight against pornography: sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.
So, if you are seeking to repent from porn, but you don’t know where to begin, this book is for you. If you’d like to help those enslaved by this sin, this book is for you. And remember, God is faithful and will provide a way of escape!