You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. – 2 Timothy 3:1-6 (NLT)
I realize that what I am about to write today may cause a bit of controversy. But I feel like it’s important to share because 1) I think those of us who claim to have faith need to stop being bystanders and 2) many people have been hurt by “Christians” and are calling for a justice that is valid.
Now, I do want to put one caveat out there in fairness to both sides. While few Americans read the Bible and obey its words, many Americans do claim themselves as Christians and do portray the religious appearances of Christianity. So, those of you who are believers, know that I recognize that not all “Christians” are true Christ followers. For those of you who are not of the faith, I hope you also recognize that people can claim themselves as “Christians” but do not truly believe in or follow the Gospel.
But regardless of a person’s true status, there is a real issue here. And those of us who are of faith need to be on guard and vigorously fight against the infiltration of abuse and addiction among our church congregations.
If you reread 2 Timothy 3:1-6, you will see that Paul is warning Timothy of religious people becoming selfish, manipulative and exploitative. I think this is going on today within our own churches. Too often, we remain bystanders rather than fight against this cycle.
It is no secret that 50% of Christian men and 20% of women report using porn regularly. Secular research claims that a person first sees porn when he or she is 11 years old (on average), and at least 66% of youth report that their exposure to porn was unwanted (read more about these statistics here).
If you think about this from a business/marketing standpoint, it makes sense. The individuals who run the porn and commercial sex industries are building their life-long customer base. It is just like the drug market. One of the things I learned in Mexico was that drug lords will sprinkle cocaine around play grounds. As children kick up the sand, they breathe in cocaine and slowly become addicted.
Children are vulnerable. They can be easily exploited, easily manipulated and easily addicted. This is why it is imperative for parents to teach their children how to protect themselves and think critically. But that is a separate blog post to be written.
My point is that the Christian men and women, who are now addicted to porn, continually fill their minds with unhealthy sexual perspectives. Eventually, this addictive and skewed perspective causes them to “consider nothing sacred” and “be reckless… and love pleasure rather than God.” We already know that unhealthy sexuality is the breeding ground for sexual abuse and exploitation. Sooner than you know it…”They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women.”
I have seen this personally. I have seen religious men and young adults prey upon vulnerable girls and women. I have also watched so many Christians become aghast at these situations but remain inactive. Rather than actively pursuing justice—speaking out against these actions and incorporating ministries that help addicted people or abused people—so many Christians remain quiet. The issue becomes someone else’s problem (the pastor’s or a counselor’s).
But as Christians, we cannot be bystanders and allow this cycle to continue. If we are people who believe in the Bible and have chosen to follow Jesus, we have a Spirit within us whose very nature is love and justice. Jesus himself said the following:
“He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.”…Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Every Spirit filled person is, by nature, to pursue justice: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Our hearts should burn with righteous anger when we hear stories like Tiffany‘s, who was sexually abused by a church member. With aching hearts, we should embrace the survivors and confess with them the sin that has been done to them. Jesus has scorned their shame and will restore them (you can read about this perspective in the book Death by Love).
But when it comes to the abusers, justice looks a bit different for the Christian. In fact, the Bible clearly warns against the world’s view of justice, saying, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
While we should speak out against injustice and we should fight against the markets of porn, trafficking and abuse, we must also recognize that the perpetrators — men (and women) — are just as broken and need freedom just as much at the victims.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14).
With Jesus dying on the cross, our justice is pursued through grace.
So, going back to the beginning of the cycle…As people of faith, it is imperative to approach those struggling with porn addictions with profound grace. An article I recently read on CovenantEyes.com demonstrates this gospel-based approach:
This is where a proper understanding of the cross is critical. Yes, my sin means I deserve the lowest hell. But (in love) Christ experienced my hell on the cross. He experienced the agony of God-forsakenness, the curse of my sin. The Father channeled His just wrath for my sin into His Son. The cross is God’s altar to fully extinguish His anger, and, as a result, I am fully pardoned.
Furthermore, to prove Christ’s sacrifice was not in vain, God raised Jesus from the dead three days later. Weeks after this, His disciples saw Him ascend into the heavens, and there, we are told, He entered the holiest place of heaven. He poured out His Spirit on His people, and by His Spirit He can “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
Knowing this, we should denounce all systems of penance as shallow cross-replacements. Knowing that my condemnation has been taken away, this grace from God breaks the cycle. Instead of guilt moving me to penance, guilt can, rather, move me to confession and praise. Instead of penance moving me to hollow abstinence, I am, rather, moved by real worship to experience a higher pleasure of God’s friendship.
My personal prayer is that every addicted man and woman come to know this good news — the Gospel — and are filled with the Spirit who can break their addictions and purify their minds.
Christian, if you claim Jesus as your Lord, if you believe that the Bible is true and that you are to obey it out of love for Christ, refuse to be a bystander. You should not be silent or passive. Pursue justice by fighting against the harmful industries of porn and commercial sex. Fight for the freedom and healing of survivors of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Create cultures of grace within your churches so that men and women struggling with addictions can recognize the Gospel and receive the help they need to become free (thus not contributing to the pain of others). Embrace the cross, the resurrection and the Spirit that Jesus extended to you–to in turn be extended to others–so that you can break your own unhealthy cycles and pursue healthy sexuality that is rooted in grace and purity.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8 (ESV)