At 8:30 PM, Mike's phone rang. It was Jill, his fiancée. He sighed and let it go to voicemail. What could she possibly want to talk about? They had just spent the day together.
30 seconds later, she called again. Again he ignored her call, and continued staring at the computer screen. And again 30 seconds later.
20 minutes later he closed the laptop, and casually dialed his fiancée’s number.
"Where were you!?!" Jill yelled, half-screaming, half-crying. "I tried calling you 3 times!"
"Baby, what's wrong?" he asked, feeling guilty that he hadn't picked up.
She was almost hysterical. "While I was driving home, some guys stopped next to me at a stoplight, and said some really nasty things to me. I rolled up my windows and locked my doors, but then they got behind me. They turned their lights out and got right on my tail for almost 5 miles. I was freaking out! What were you doing??"
He instantly filled with shame. He couldn't tell her the truth. It was too much to admit.
He had been watching porn.
Pornography is one of America's most pervasive problems. Technological progress has joined hands with our culture's obsession with sex to offer limitless access to adult content. The voices in favor of pornography vastly outnumber those who cry out against its evils, and this has left plenty of room for men and women to justify their actions and soothe their wounded consciences.
One common justification seeks to plead innocence for pornography use by claiming that it only affects the person using it. In some ways, this scenario is more plausible than ever before. Today, a man can access as much pornography as he wants in the privacy of his own bedroom. He doesn't have to risk exposing his family to shame by purchasing an adult magazine at the local grocery store or by sneaking into an adult movie theater, where someone he knows might see him.
And so the question, "Doesn't it affect only me?" seems reasonable. However, just as the physical realm has laws which cannot be altered, so the spiritual realm has its laws. The truth is this: A person who jumps off a cliff cannot keep his body from hitting the ground, and a person who watches pornography cannot keep from negatively affecting other people.
There are two main areas in which people who view pornography are bound to affect other people by their actions. The first is direct, the second is indirect.
They Reap What You Sow
The apostle Paul told the Ephesian church that they ought to put off their former way of life, because it was "being corrupted through its deceitful desires." (Ephesians 4:18 AMP). He also told the Galatians to diligently fight against sowing to the flesh, because he that "sows to his flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and corruption." (Galatians 6:8).
When a person sows to his lower nature by watching pornography, he sows a great degree of moral corruption into his spiritual life, and he is bound to reap nasty spiritual consequences. Some will reap the corruption of an increasingly explosive temper. Others harvest a general apathy toward life, and show no healthy desire to take care of themselves or fulfill their responsibilities. Still others bear the fruit of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.
It is not difficult to see how this will affect other people. Whenever anything doesn't go his way at home, Ken lashes out at his wife and children. Jeremy squanders the money his parents paid for college by spending 5 hours a day watching porn. He skips classes, barely passes tests, and forgets to pay his bills. Lina is trapped in porn and begins to get depressed. She feels fat compared to the women she sees, and starts forcing herself to throw up after every meal. Her friends constantly worry about her, often wondering how they can help her.
Often when people are addicted to pornography, they are unable to see the changes that are taking place in their personalities, emotions and characters. However, even if other people cannot discern the source of the problem, they certainly feel the sting of the consequences.
Unless You Remain On the Vine
The second way a person's pornography affects other people is more indirect, but equally as damaging. Just as pornography introduces a moral corruption into a man's nature which makes him what he should not be, it also hinders him from becoming what he should be.
The Word of God tells us that we were "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) However, Jesus qualifies this statement by saying that "just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me." (John 15:4 HCSB)
A person who is regularly indulging in pornography is cutting himself off from the spiritual influence of Jesus, the Heavenly vine. If the person is not completely spiritually dead already, he or she is extremely sick. This spiritual sickness will always hinder a person’s effectiveness in the works that Christ has called him to do.
Pornography kills our passion for God. It destroys our ability to comprehend spiritual truths. It withers our desire to spend ourselves for God's kingdom. It distorts our perspectives and gives us a skewed view of right and wrong.
Who knows how many men have been called into serving their local church, or even into full-time ministry work, whose calling has been aborted by getting involved with pornography? Filled with the shame of an impure life, they rightly feel that they are disqualified from ministry.
How many fathers are unable to lead their wives and children spiritually because of their own secret sins? They wish they could instruct and guide, but the boldness which comes from a clean conscience is undermined by lack of personal victory. The position of spiritual authority is vacant in their homes, or inappropriately filled by their wives. Therefore, the shaping of their children’s spiritual and moral character comes from their peers, the perverse culture around them, or their own corrupt natures.
How many young men and women have been called to take a stand for righteousness in their schools or workplaces, but their morals have been eroded to such a great degree that they have no real testimony of Christ and His truth?
On the other hand, there are some that get involved in pornography while in full-time ministry, and must force themselves to go through the motions of ministry. While God may choose to bless other people through their ministry, there will most certainly come a time when they will either be exposed, or they will simply quit. Secret sins and corrupt influences eventually steal away the power that should be available to everyone who does God's work in the earth.
Pornography Already Affected Someone
The negative effects of a person’s pornography use on the people around them is indisputable, and simply incalculable. But the truth is, even if it were possible to avoid affecting the people in your sphere of influence, there is Someone who has already been affected by your sin.
"He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)
Jesus, the humble Lamb of God was affected by our sin. The clear teaching of Scripture is that Jesus Christ was beaten, bruised, tortured and put to death upon a Roman cross as a direct result of the sins of humanity. Our sins require an eternal weight of condemnation, and because God was not willing to simply send us all to hell, He ordained that His Son would be brutalized for us. It was the only way that God could justly forgive our sins and bring us into the way of peace.
As long as we willingly allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that we are only affecting ourselves when we watch pornography, many of us will never care enough to really want to change. May we allow our eyes to open, painful as that experience may be, to the reality that pornography is never a victimless crime. And may the Lord grant repentance to all who are in need, so that their lives might affect everyone around them, not for evil, but for their good and God's glory.
Nate Danser is the Director of Ministry Outreach at Pure Life Ministries. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. He has served in our Media Department since he came on board in 2009. Nate is very passionate in his desire to see young people come into a real life with God.
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