Article Jan 5, 2017

The penalty of pornography and the power of the gospel

In Romans 1:24-25, the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

For centuries, this passage has been rightly understood as a denunciation of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in society and before God. In no uncertain terms, Paul explicitly addresses and denounces the “shameless acts” of those who “gave up natural relations” with the opposite sex and “received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Paul tells us that God “gave them up to dishonorable passions” because of this dark exchange. To be sure, I am in completely agreement with the ancient and orthodox Christian understanding of Romans 1 and homosexuality.

I do, however, believe that this passage issues a broader warning about sexual immorality that should be headed by all, especially considering our current existence in a pornified-world.

Hardly anyone can live unaffected by pornography in our day. From the magazines at our children’s eye level in the grocery store checkout line to the potential sewer pipe of internet connectivity that we carry in our pockets and purses, the ubiquity of pornography plagues our society. For decades, many argued that pornography was harmless. Yet, in more recent days, it has become obvious that pornography is enslaving and punishing our society. From the dehumanizing exploitation and harm of women in the porn industry to the fundamental devaluing of sexual intimacy in marriage to the porn-induced physical, emotional and psychological issues facing thousands of people, we are learning that we do not consume pornography; pornography consumes us.

When we remove sexual arousal and consummation from its covenantal context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, we exchange “natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.” God did not intend for our sexuality to be synthetically consummated in front of a magazine, stage or screen. Sexuality is not a commodity for the consumption of the masses. Such an understanding of sex is contrary to nature. When this truth is exchanged for the lie, sex is no longer about our worship of God, but rather, it is about our worship of sex. And as we pervert God’s natural design for sexuality, we begin to receive in ourselves the due penalty of our error.

In a sense, then, the pervasiveness of porn has become humanity’s punishment for exchanging the natural relations of sexuality for the false idols of these dishonorable passions. Even when those in the industry claim to enjoy or willingly participate in pornography and those who consume it suggest that porn has improved their life in some way, they are simply manifesting the symptoms of a porn-induced Stockholm Syndrome. They are captives, not combatants, in the war for humanity’s soul.

Mercifully, Romans 1 is not the end of the story. While the existence of pornography is in a very real sense a scourge upon us as a society, there is yet hope for freedom from its captivity. Paul tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” The sin and the judgment that condemns us to eternal punishment and separation from God has been conquered by God Himself in Jesus Christ. Our sin deserves God’s wrath, yet in His mercy, God has provided a means of escape for those who “confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead will be saved.”

While the world offers us pornography and judgment, God through Christ offers us propitiation and justification. The guilt, regret, unrest and emptiness one feels after their suicidal self-indulgence of pornography is intended to point to the greater joy, peace, comfort and wholeness that is ultimately found in Christ alone. Brothers and sisters, do not wallow in the pornographic fallout of your sexuality immorality. Flee to the One who came to set you free from the disordered affections that intend to kill you.